Not so long ago, November came to the end, which means that in Mexico finished the month devoted to the dead persons. And I would like to tell you about one of the most popular, and as for me one of the most ambiguous national traditions – celebration of the Dia de los Muertos.
Probably very few people know that in some pueblos of Campeche there is a custom to dig up the bones, wash them and put back. And once again I’m reminded how fascinating and distinctive world we’re surrounded by. Because if for us the death is always sad, for the ancient indigenous people as well as for the current population of Mexico the death is the life and transcendence which is reflected in rituals such as offerings of the Dia de los Muertos.
That’s why it’s used to make an altar of several levels, usually of three, each one with its own meaning. Altars start from the top to the bottom and the offering food is placed in bowls or in clay plates with some things in glass dishes.
The first level means the underworld. Here it is the place where people put a photo of the dead person to whom they will offer the things, one alcoholic drink, a glass of water and flowers.
The second level represents the ground and it is the main offering, which can be food, or drinks that ancestors liked, or food and fruits that they harvested when they were alive. It can be tamales, made from dough and chicken, drinks from corn like pozole and atole, lemonade, chocolate, water of rice, sour orange, pineapple, coconut, or melon.
In the third level are accommodated the sweets, or delicacies which the deceased people will like to sample on their visit to the altar. These are: merengue, arepas and sweets. In the same level the following fruits are placed : plum, papaya, coconut, guava, tamarind, orange, tangerine, banana, apple, corn, and in some special cases the grapes.
Since the altar has been built it is necessary to construct a cross with a lime as well as a path which dead persons will take to come, and to light it up with a few lit candles. After the set up of the altar with everything to offer to the dead people, one person usually prays in front of the altar to make the deceased souls to feel happy and secure. As well as in the ground can be placed a censer with carbon and incense to produce a scent that will attract the dead ones who are lost and do not know how to meet with their families.
Maybe you’ve already seen “Coco”, the American musical fantasy film about 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he seeks the help of his musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his living family. Based on the concept of Mexican holiday, the film discloses some interesting details of this.