Dia de los Muertos
“Day of the Dead”
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Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead is considered the most representative tradition of Mexican culture. The celebration takes place in two days: on November 1 is dedicated to the soul of children and on November 2 to that of adults. Although marked throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos is most strongly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. Dia de los Muertos honors the dead with festivals and lively celebrations, a typically Latin American custom that combines indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadores. (Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, minor holidays in the Catholic calendar.)
Death as an encounter with the unknown has had different manifestations in different cultures, whether through literature or music, or through customs and sacred rites. The fear and taboo surrounding death in today’s Western civilizations is understandable and even logical, but Mexican society has been able to give it a very particular view from a comprehensive, solemn and festive point of view, which allows Mexicans to accept it from Another way. When the taboo is overcome and death becomes represented, fear is overcome and you are ready to face it. Mexicans do not fear or reject death, but accepts it as part of a natural process, a journey to an uncertain destination. This vision can only be explained through the history of Mexico and its old beliefs that prevail until today.
The pre-Spanish, colonial and current times
The pre-Spanish peoples who lived in the territory of what we now call Mexico, had a concept of death quite different from that which would later come with conquest. These people believed that dying was the beginning of a journey to the underworld, also called Mictlán. There are several theories about Mictlán as a city of the dead, but all agree that this kingdom was separated by different levels and that each traveler, depending on the life he had taken, should be addressed to one of them. In this sense, it is clear the parallelism that we can draw from this city with the hell of Dante. Funerary rituals were sacred to those cultures. When a loved one died, the body was buried with different objects: among them were the belongings of the deceased and those elements that the relatives believed the traveler could need in his journey to the underworld.
After the arrival of the Spaniards, the expansion of Christianity began and with it, a break of the cultures and traditions of the inhabitants of the town. The concept of hell and heaven was introduced for the first time in that society as punishment or reward. They were times where the syncretism reigned and they went assimilating some beliefs along with others. In the colonial era, although many of the traditions of the ancient peoples were lost, Christian evangelization also encountered strong resistance on the part of the natives. To take away their traditions was to take away their identity, and that was something the Indians were not willing to negotiate.
Today, the Day of the Dead party is a combination of different cultures and beliefs. Mexico is a multicultural country that knew how to preserve its ancient rites and, in turn, add different meanings and traditions of various peoples and cultures
The celebration of each November 2 begins with the bells of the church, accompanied by some rites, such as the creation of the altar of the dead. It is believed that the flowers, the prayers and the different symbols that accompany the day help the souls to return to earth to comfort their loved ones: relatives are an active part of this ceremony, supporting the traveler and paying tribute.
Death is the central character on this day, which is represented through multiple elements and rites. Among the main rites, we have the creation of skulls, which are a kind of humorous epitaphs for people who are still alive. In this way he jokes with and through death. The so-called Pan De Muerto “dead bread” can not be missing either. This is a traditional dish that consists of a sweet bread to which some strips of dough are added as “bones” of decoration. Yellow flowers are also tradition on this date, it is believed that they guide the soul to reach their relatives.
The altar of the dead is the maximum expression of this celebration. The altar is a symbolic construction to pay homage to the dead, consists of the creation of an altar in the home where candles, flowers and food are put up as an offering for the deceased. VASE OF WATER: It is a symbol of purity, it also serves the spirit to refresh after his journey through the other world. CANDLES VELADORAS: It is the light that guides the deceased in their journey to the material world. MIRROR: It represents the only way in which the deceased can see his spiritual form when he arrives to take his offerings at the altar. BREAD OF DEAD PAN DE MUERTO: represents the body that the person lost when embarking on his journey through the other world, the lines on the bread of dead signify his bones as well as the cane. CLOTHING: Garments of the deceased are also placed so that the spirit remembers his physical form. PUMPKINS: Represents the skull or head that the spirit left on the ground when dying. CERÁMICA DOG: Mexican belief said that when people died, people had to cross a river to get to paradise, so a dog helped them to cross safely, it also removes the evil spirits from the altar. SUGAR CANE CAÑA: Represents the skeleton that the spirit lost when dying, generally they are crossed like a religious sign. TOYS OR PHOTOGRAPHS: If the deceased is a child, toys are placed on the altar for the spirit to play, if it is an adult, photographs are placed of when they lived or some personal object. SALT: Symbol of purification and preservation of the body, it is also the way that the deceased must follow up to the altar, can be placed in cross form to protect the spirit. CALAVERAS: They are placed on the altar to remind the person who no longer belongs to this world. PAPEL PICADO: They mean the threshold between the world of the dead and the world of the living, used with images of skulls, in colors such as black, orange and purple (Advent color in the Catholic religion). INCENSE: Incense is lit on the eve of November 2 to guide the soul of the deceased to the altar. FOOD: Food is placed that in life liked the deceased, so that it recharges its forces in its return to the other world. FLOWERS OF CEMPASÚCHIL: Placed since pre-Columbian times as a symbol of respect for the deceased, crosses can also be formed with these. YELLOW Represents the strength of light and life. It also evokes the sun, which in the Aztec tradition, is believed to guide the souls of the deceased. The traditional cemetery flower is the one that gives this yellow color in the decorations. That is why the petals of cemeteries are used to make roads, to guide the dead to their offerings. PURPLE: Represents Christian mourning. When they arrived in America the Spaniards in the sixteenth century brought their own celebrations of the Day of the Dead Christian and European, where they remembered the dead on All Saints’ Day. By turning the natives of the new world into a syncretism that blended the European and pre-Hispanic traditions, matching the Catholic festivities of All Saints’ Day and All Souls with the similar Mesoamerican festival, creating the present Day of the Dead and adding the purple color, which symbolizes Christian mourning in the celebration. BLACK: It refers to the pre-Hispanic religion, the Tlillan, the place of blackness, and Mictlán, that is, the site of the dead. WHITE It means light, innocence and purity. It is also used as a representation of the sky.The representation of each altar has its variations depending on each region of the country, but all agree that this rite is a gift to the ancestors and an invitation for them to visit.
The seven steps of the alter: In the upper First step of this type of altars, the photograph of the favorite saint or of the virgin, or a cross is placed; in the second, there is the stamp of the souls of purgatory and in the third the salt. In the fourth step is placed the bread of death, and in the fifth the meals and dishes that are willing to offer the deceased. In the sixth step, the photo of the deceased person to whom the altar is dedicated is accommodated, and in the last one step, a cross of camandula, made of tejocote and limes. This altar also carries the four candles forming a cross, and includes a pot of clay olla de barro en un brasero, where aromatic herbs are put to clean the environment. There are also chains of purple and yellow paper, chopped colored paper Papel picado and three flowers, purple, yellow and white, symbolizing mourning, earth and sky, respectively. A new white canvas, which represents the purity of the spirit and the sky, is used as a tablecloth, and a single candle representing the soul of the deceased is accommodated. Maize and fruits are also offered as earthen offerings, as well as the favorite dishes of the deceased and sweet calaveras, thus representing the skull for the ancient Indians.
Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
The most familiar symbol of Dia de los Muertos may be the calacas and calaveras (skeletons and skulls), which appear everywhere during the holiday: in candied sweets, as parade masks, as dolls. Calacas and calaveras are almost always portrayed as enjoying life, often in fancy clothes and entertaining situations.
S.A.C. – Diaz Loera Centro Latino – Latinos Unidos De Napa y Solano
Pata De Perro -Chelu
Danza Azteca Calpulli Nanahuatzin
Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli
Ballet Folklorico El Valle
Ballet Folklorico Zempoalxochitl
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