Día de Muertos

Posted on October 31,2010 by pfuentesmoadmspp

Last Friday, while browsing through some of my Mexican friends’ facebook status updates, I realized that this is a long weekend in Mexico. The sad or scary part for me (as a Mexican) is that I couldn’t figure out why it was a long weekend. Later, I was talking with an MSPP friend, and we started talking about Halloween and Día de Muertos. Suddenly, it hit me (duh!): of course it is a long weekend because we celebrate “el Día de Muertos¨ (Day of the Dead) on November 2nd. All my life while growing up in Mexico, this was a long weekend full of festivities (from Halloween to Día de Muertos we would never miss out an opportunity for gathering, by celebrating things from our culture as well as other cultures).

I think I refer to this experience as “sad” or “scary” as it made me realize how easy it is to lose track of time and traditions when one is so involved with school and internship, and well, this life. I’m happy though that I had that opportunity of talking with my friend and remember the reason for a long weekend. Suddenly I felt pretty nostalgic about “Día de Muertos¨.

The origins of Día de Muertos trace back to indigenous cultures. Nowadays, families gather together to pray for and remember their deceased family and friends. Typically, altars are built honoring the dead. Altars are decorated with sugar skulls, “pan de muerto” (“dead” bread – a delicious sugary bread), “flor de cempazuchitl” (Mexican marigolds), “papel picado” (artistically cut paper), and particular things that the deceased enjoyed (for instance, my family once made an altar in our house and it had brushes and paintings honoring my great-grandmother who was a painter artist).

Before coming to MSPP, I used to teach “Creativity Class” to a high school class, and there was an altar contest in the school, it was beautiful! In our class, we made an exercise about writing a “Calavera” (which technically it means skull, although these are different kinds of Calaveras). In a literary traditional context, Calaveras are like poems, or popular rhymes, written for Día de Muertos making allusion to the living in an ingenious and humorous way. Calaveras talk a lot about “La Parca”, “La Calavera”, “La Muerte”, “La Catrina” and so on; all referring to different ways of calling “The Skull” as a woman who comes and takes the life of the living. “Calaveras” contests are frequent amongst schools and companies, and Día de Muertos is the perfect occasion when people can write anything they want about their teachers or bosses in a “deadly” humorous way.

In honor to Día de Muertos, here is a little Calavera verse for MSPP:

Ahí viene la Parca hablando en inglés
Diciendo “hi” and “thank you” mientras la ves
Con sus huesos te atrapa
Con su sonrisa te engaña
Ahí viene la Muerte a jalarte los pies.

A MSPP la Catrina llegó
Fue Mario Murga quien la admitió
En el Programa Latino la Calavera quiere estar
Por lo que clases de español
La Flaca debe tomar.

The Calavera translation could be something like this:

Here come the Skull talking in English
Saying “hi" and "thank you” as you see her
With her bones she traps you
With her smile she grabs you
Here comes the Dead to pull your feet.

To MSPP the Skull arrived
It was Mario Murga who admitted her
In the Latino Mental Health Program the skull wants to be
And that is why the Skinny Skull
Should enroll in Spanish lessons indeed.

Clearly in English it doesn’t rhyme as much or make any sense (I really tried!), but I just posted there so that those who don’t speak Spanish could get a sense of it.

Feliz Día de Muertos!

Altar de Muertos

Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls)