Month: November 2013

Altar in Mixquic

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In Mixquic, a little girl, maybe age seven, appeared out of the dark and offered to sell us a parking space and use of the household WC in exchange for fewer than fifty pesos.

She and her little sister appeared to be home alone and hustling to help out.

Their WC was a small room with a maroon toilet and matching shower curtain. Their kitchen (yes, I’m nosy) was in a separate room, and the door was held shut with a wooden spoon. The living room (and bedrooms, I suppose) was in a third, separate space. The rose-colored space featured an altar overflowing with fruits and flowers.

Outside of some houses in the community of Mixquic, families placed a line of marigolds leading to their door to signify that neighbors (and even outsiders, like us) were welcome to come in and learn about the loved ones.

But there were no marigolds at this stop and no one but these little entrepreneurs to tell us the story.

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San Andrés Mixquic

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Graves in the cemetery which surrounds the Church of San Andrés Apostal in the town of Mixquic (on the outskirts of DF) are decorated with cempasúchil flowers, marigolds, candles, and tapetes (carpets) made of colored sand or colored sawdust.

We navigated through the labyrinthine cemetery to observe families huddled in celebration of their deceased loved ones. The cemetery was flooded with the light of thousands of tapers, and the pathway was so tight in spots I felt my pantlegs might ignite.

Over the solemn reflection and intimate exchanges, and outside of the cemetery, a group opposed to the celebration blasted Christian rock. This clash of cultures was interesting but unsurprising; last year in Oaxaca during an intercambio, one man seemed insulted when I asked what he was doing to celebrate Day of the Dead. He admonished, “I said I am Christian.”

This made me realize that as a consumer of cultural events, I am not discriminating. I welcome all sorts of experiences without concern that they will dilute my beliefs.

The balloons decorating a child’s grave, the photographs, the plates of their favorite food and drink help us to remember that although they have left us, our dead are not so far away.

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Death is a punishment for some; for others, a gift, and for many a favor. –Seneca

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The dead to the well, and the living to joy. –Anonymous

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Death is sweet, but the waiting room is cruel. –Camilo Jose Cel

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He wasn’t dead; he was out on the town. –Anonymous

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To death he makes a brave front and after invites a drink. –Anonymous

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After all, death is only a symptom that there was life. –Mario Benedetti

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Among flowers we are greeted and among flowers we are dismissed. –Anonymous

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The catrina is going to take the dead, but she is going to stay at the party. –Anonymous

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We must live smiling to die content. –Anonymous

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One cannot die when he wants, but when he can. –Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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These photographs of altars were displayed on a wall in a courtyard outside of the Carlos Slim Foundation with several other altars and displays. It was a pretty space that was a quiet reprieve from the bustling foot traffic outside the walls.

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Life

Life is very beautiful
And nothing compares
We all must die
And we all will go to the last tomb
If you have or do not have (riches) you are going to go
And not because you don’t have, you are staying.

Regina St.

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On the evening of 11/1, the streets were filled with people made up with elegant and frightening skeleton masks. The dead, just as the living, arrive in a variety of disguises.

On Regina, one of the pedestrian streets (you may recall the vertical garden from June), there were contemporary altars. Contemporary altars mean, I think, altars made to non-family members. Of the heaps of them, I had two favorites. Both were not particularly photogenic. The first was a commemoration of the handwritten letter. Definitely dead.

The second depicted a set of more than three dozen life-size (I think) skulls that were melting into the night. The ice picked up the surrounding light in an eerie way, but looking at my photos, this exhibition sort of reminded me of peering into a refrigerator (full of frozen skulls).

There was more than a mile of altars and parades of painted people willing to pose, wanting to share their traditions.

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Fue sueño ayer, mañana será tierra
Francisco de Quevedo

“!Fue sueño ayer; mañana será tierra!
!Poco antes, nada; poco después, humo!
!Y destino ambiciones, y presumo
apenas punto al cerco que me cierra!

Breve combate de importuna guerra,
en mi defensa, soy peligro sumo;
y mientras con mis armas me consumo,
menos me hospeda el cuerpo, que me entierra.

Ya no es ayer; mañana no ha llegado;
hoy pasa, y es, y fue, con movimiento
que a la muerte me lleva despeñado.

Azadas son la hora y el momento
que, a jornal de mi pena y mi cuidado,
cavan en mi vivir mi monumento.”

Translation at: http://poemsintranslation.blogspot.com/2012/10/quevedo-on-brevity-of-life-thoughtless.html

Zocalo Show

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During Dia de Los Muertos, we caught this band performing long after midnight. They were super high energy and a whole lot of fun.

Some people were seated; others, like me, stood back and watched the show which included couples dancing in patches around the zocalo.

The best part of the show was this move the members of the band had where they all formed a line, grabbed each other’s hips, and started grinding on each other. They didn’t do this just one or twice or three times — or four. At the fifth or sixth one, T- and I almost fell over laughing. It was as if they were magnetic and couldn’t stop. (And, we didn’t want them to.)

I suggested that we needed to have a move like this and engage some of our colleagues in it. I mean, who can resist spontaneous grinding?

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