The famous festivity “Day of the Dead” in Mexico is one of the most important cultural samples of the country, and has become a tourist factor to encourage the economy of the various sites that still prevail with this custom. It Was declared “intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since the year 2003.
Michoacán is one of the States that continues to preserve this tradition and can be noted in the manifestations made mainly by the Purépecha culture (pre-Columbian civilization that inhabited the region of Mesoamerica) whose capital was the city of Tzintzuntzan and which still prevails in the areas of: Pátzcuaro, Ihuatzio and the capital of this culture.
This great cultural exhibition is lived in a unique way in each of the sites, as each region is characterized by living the celebration with certain peculiarities. In general, it starts on November 1st, the day dedicated to “Todos los Santos”, where it is intended to honor the deceased children and on November 2 is dedicated to “The faithful deceased” ie adults.
A great mysticism is lived on this date as to honor the deceased are mounted altars for them in homes and pantheons. The elaboration of the same can vary depending on the region and the “type” of altar that is going to be made. According to tradition, certain elements are placed in them with a unique meaning, we can divide it into three great historical stages:
Pre-Hispanic: the tradition of offering to the deceased has its origins since before the arrival of the Spaniards. They Were placed on rugs the foods that in life were their favorite, as well as some seeds, beans, corn that represented the abundance of the earth and that line of reminder of both worlds.
Colonial: At this stage, already has an influence of the arrival of the Spaniards and we find this mixture of cultures, in which these offerings begin to have a more religious sense and begin to appreciate the placement of “levels” in them :
Contemporary: Referring to the current era, is the placement of the altars with “new elements” such as chopped paper and sawdust and we can find them then also with levels.
It Is believed that all of these must have the four elements embodied: FIRE, EARTH, WATER and AIR.
The altars also have certain elements with their own meaning and the introduction or placement of each one of them will depend on the time being represented:
Water: Used to quench the thirst of the deceased, as it has gone through a long way to reach the world of the living, water element.
Arco: It Is placed in the upper part of the altar and symbolizes the gateway to the world of the dead.
Food: In the offerings given to the deceased, the food is the most important, since it is customary to offer the food that in life were his favorites. In each case, they are also placed depending on the region, the traditional food of the area. It Is also used To put alcoholic beverages.
Copal: Used to purify the environment, air element.
Cross: This can be made of salt or ash, it is an introduction of the Catholic religion, it is believed that if a soul is in purgatory this symbol will help its exit.
Sweets: Placed especially when it is a child who is dedicating the offering.
Mirror: Following the tradition, it is placed so that the soul can have a reflection of its spiritual form.
Flowers: Especially the “Flor de marigolds” is believed to have a smell so penetrating and particular that helps the spread to follow the path to our world, earth element.
Image of the deceased: the photograph of the person being reminded is placed.
Personal Items: Accessories are placed such as clothing, shoes or an item with which the deceased was identified in life, in the case of children are placed toys.
Pan: It is used today the already famous “bread of dead” which was introduced in the same way by the Spaniards, adorned in the upper part with “Bones” of bread forming a cross.
Ceramic Dog: Our ancestors had the belief that dogs Fungían as guides to cross the world of the living to the dead.
Sal: Used so that the soul of the deceased is not corrupted and can return the following year.
Veilers: They are the light that illuminates the way of the deceased and helps them to return to the world of the living, element fire.
It Is impressive to visit any of the Purépecha villages in Michoacan and to find this cultural manifestation so alive, so full of colors, smells, flavors and especially so full of love. As a Mexican, it is probably a bit complicated to externalize what this celebration represents, because erroneously one could interpret that it is a celebration to “death” when in reality it is to honor our “dead”, to remember them and to feel them in essence near Of us, let them know that we have not forgotten them and are still part of our lives.
If you are Mexican and you are reading this, you know what I speak, instead if you are not, I want to share some opinions of friends about what they represent the night of the Dead:
“For me the Night of the dead, it is one day a year in particular, that we dedicate to those people who left something very important for us, parents, brothers, close friends, and that for questions of time, or of destiny they had to leave before us. It Is A very special day, to think of the good things that lived together, and although they are not here, to smile because their memory is always with us, that is what keeps them alive and with us, the talking about their stories, their moments of overcoming as a person and other , is what allows you to always remember them ”
Jesús Prieto, Chihuahua, Mexico.
“It Is the night in which the living and the dead unite to live together. It Represents a sacred night in which through rituals two worlds unite to create a mystical night ”
César Águilas, Michoacán, Mexico.
“The Night of the dead is of the best traditions for me, full of colors so vivid, food so rich, and the wonderful offerings that are made in honor of all people, remember them as they were in their best, their favorite food, all the love they gave is wonderful Or the pleasure that feels to be between the flower of marigolds and that your being flooded with many feelings, is a way in which we feel so close to our loved ones that we have a special connection with those who departed and left us a void in our After lives and in the heart “