Friday, November 2, 2012

Los Dias de Muertos "The Day of the Dead"

Halloween is a huge event in Taos but just as big, and more interesting to me, is the Day of the Dead celebration ("Los Dias de Muertos" in Spanish) which falls on November 2nd to coincide with All Souls day.  This tradition is supposed to celebrate our departed loved ones and help ease their transition to the afterlife.  The tradition started in Mexico over 3000 years ago.  According to the book "The Days of the Dead/Los Dias de Muertos" by Greenleigh-Beimler,  the day is "celebrated with a mixture of reverence for the departed, revelry to make them happy upon their return and mockery to defy the fear of death itself"

Traditionally families get together and visit the grave sites of their departed loved ones.  They decorate the sites with candles, toys, bottles of tequila, flowers, pictures of their loved ones, notes to them, garlands.etc.  Then they gather at family homes and celebrate with food, drink and music.  Sometimes they build altars in their homes and decorate them with the same materials they used at the cemetery.  They also add calaveras which are skeleton-like figures that are supposed to look like the person did when he/she was alive.  The calaveras also often depict what the person did for a living.  Originally made from sugar, they are now made from many different types of materials in many different sizes.

The Adobe Bar in Taos has held a Day of the Dead celebration for twenty three years.  Each year, George and Beverly Chacon build an altar memorial and invite everyone in the community to add the names and photos of their departed loved ones. Tonight I am live blogging at the celebration amidst a huge crowd.  I met Beverly earlier this evening.  She explained that the altar has been set up for a few days but that most of the names have been added tonight.  She told me there would be music, dancing, an explanation of Day of the Dead and lots of food.  The Adobe Bar would conclude the evening by passing out Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muerte (bread of the dead) a slightly sweet bread flavored with cinnamon traditionally served on this day.  Beverly told me "The bread is delicious.  Take some and put it in your pockets.  It will be wonderful for breakfast tomorrow morning"
Day of the Dead altar at the Adobe Bar

George spoke a while ago and explained the history of the celebration and their family's involvement.  Then he invited the crowd to speak a bit about their loved ones. 

Right now there is live music from the Cuban rumba players Caridad and Daniel, described by George as "sacred drumming from the ancestors".  The beat is addicting, people are dancing, laughing, eating, drinking, talking...many are dressed as calaveras with white painted faces and black paint around their eyes, noses and mouths to depict skeletons.  It is a wild, wonderful and oh so interesting scene.  I love Taos!

my best,
november 2, 2012

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