By Lupita Peimbert.
The Day of the Dead, celebrated each year on November 2nd, is a widely known tradition in Mexico and Central América. For Mexicans, this is rich cultural heritage, spiritual, and mystic. For the rest of the world, this is popular culture. In the USA, this can be a suitable example of cultural diversity.
For those of you who may want to know a thing or two about “Día de los Muertos,” here are five important pieces of it:
- Día de Los Muertos or The Day of the Dead has to be celebrated on Nov. 2nd, not before or after. There is a reason for it and it has to do with the calendar and time. The tradition says the departed come to visit on that day. On November 2nd, not before or after.
- The Day of the Dead is a very important tradition in Mexico and most of us who were born and raise there, have it written all over our life. We grew up bringing flowers , food, music and drinks to the cemetery. It was all about honoring our departed, our loved ones; going to the cemetery with food and flowers we made sure they knew we still remembered them…drinking was all about the dead. Really.
- Central America celebrates as well, more or less. South America…only in a few countries.
The Day of the Dead is known and celebrated in each one of the 32 Mexican states. In the states of Michoacán and Oaxaca, the celebration is top of the line: extravagant and mystical to no end. Mexico City has made it internationally with its grandiose parade full of gigantic creatures.
- San Francisco’s Mission District adopted the tradition in the 70s, adding to it and transforming it over the years into a mix: a jazzy procession New Orleans Style, painted-faces and costumes on, and blessings by means of Aztec rituals and dancers. The Latino and other artists who abound in the Mission District have shown us what altars are and made this piece of The Day of the Dead widely known. In the last few years, Latino and other activists are using this celebration as a form of showing that culture matters as well as the importance of preserving neighborhood culture. Long known as the Latino District, the “Mission,” in San Francisco has been gentrified although it still maintains its cultural feeling. The locals and new-comers continue figuring out how to get alone, rich or poor, beautiful or not, creative or boring. ;-)!
- With this Mexican-Latino festivity, people learn to not fear death and the dead, to play with it, to laugh about our mortality. Mexican writer Octavio Paz said it best: “For the people in Nueva York, París o Londres, death is a word never pronounced because it burns when said. The Mexican, instead, frequents it, makes fun of it, caresses it, sleeps with it,. The Mexican celebrates death, it is one of its favorite toys, and its steadfast love.”
There you have it. The meaning and certain facts about The Day of the Dead – Día de Los Muertos, will never change. However, COVID19 and its restrictions have forced cultural preservationists to modify. In 2020, The Marigold Project and other groups in the Mission District have made most activities online. The popular procession on 24th Street has been canceled and so the altars at Garfield Park. I found the listing for the online event on FunCheapSF – Click here for details.
Also, if you want to learn more about COCO – the Disney/Pixar film about Día de Los Muertos, please click here for details.
Altar made by a student at City College of San Francisco. Photo & Text by Lupitanews.
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