Dominating the center of Pátzcuaro is the Indian market in the Plaza Grande. For sale here were the souvenirs of Day of the Deadcut-paper hangings of skeletons and other icons of the Day; "Katrina" dolls, female skeletons dressed in their best and always wearing hats; skeleton-shaped pastries; and pan de muerto, the anise-flavored "bread of the dead," seen on many graves as an offering to the deceased. These objects represent the festive aspects of the celebration, which, to Mexicans, is not macabre in any way.
After coming upon the amazing sight of the collective vigil in the cemetery near Pátzcuaro, we began to make our way slowly on slippery pathways between gravesites. At first, we could only stare. Slowlyand, hopefully respectfullywe began to talk with the families about their loved ones and what they had placed on the graves to summon them this night.
Loved Ones Share Stories
Rosa Inocencia's husband, accompanied by his grandson, stood by the grave of his wife. He explained the offerings he had put there: a photograph of the two as a young couple, two loaves of "bread of the dead"one shaped as a woman and the other as a man; a doll-size papier-mâché couple seated at a table, dining; and his wife's favorite fruits, all surrounded by candles. He is a man quietly respectful of his marriage, which ended with Rosa's death five years ago.
Others shared thoughts of their loved ones: a man who loved to drink with his friends was honored with bottles of his favorite whiskey; the grave of a woman, whose favorite flower was the marigold, was covered with a blanket of the golden petals. One unadorned grave was attended by a woman whose neighbor was buried there but had no one living to honor her. She did not want her neighbor to be alone on this night. As we moved on, it was impossible not to be deeply affected by the respect of the living for the dead. In the company of Mexicans celebrating death as a passage to commemorate rather than fear, we gained a special understanding of this cultural phenomenon.
Excerpted from n, the Magazine of Naples
1 | 2