Mexico's Day of the Dead, September 11 victims remembered
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- Day of the Dead festivities, which began
Thursday, are largely a solemn opportunity to remember dead loved ones.
This year, some Mexicans are using traditional altar-like offerings to
remember those killed in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United
There are bagels and Mexican rice and photos of the World Trade Center
offerings in front of the U.S. Embassy and across Mexico for the country's annual
"Dia de los Muertos," or Day of the Dead, festival.
At Latin America's largest university, the National Autonomous University,
school students built an altar with a replica of the World Trade Center and offerings
in memory of the 17 Mexicans missing in the attacks, as well as the firefighters and
police officers who were killed.
Cecilia Cortina's family came up with the idea of building a giant altar
in front of the
U.S. Embassy, complete with one of New York's most famous foods, bagels. Her
daughter and grandchildren live in New York City, near a fire station at 66th Street
and Amsterdam that lost several firefighters in the attacks.
Cortina's 3-year-old grandson, Cristobal Flores, celebrated his birthday
of the firefighters on August 24. They gave him a plastic firefighter's hat, which
now hangs above their names on the altar.
"This is a very emotional event for us here in the embassy, and for the
community in Mexico," U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow said at the altar's
dedication. "The expression of solidarity on the part of my Mexican friends is very
welcome and impressive."
Cristobal and his family were in Mexico and helped dedicate the altar.
other daughter, who remained in New York, told the station's surviving firefighters
about what her family planned to do.
"They cried," said Cortina's sister, Marcela Cortina, as she arranged flowers
candles left by passers-by. "They were so touched. They couldn't believe we were
"It's been a wonderful work of love. We had no idea it would have this impact."
The festival features skeletons and candy skulls often decorated with the
both the living and the dead. But the solemn festival also has a light side.
Preschools line up tiny wooden coffins alongside shrunken, sugar skulls
names of their young students, while offices set up altars for recently fired
employees, victims of an economic slowdown that has claimed thou sands of jobs.
Mexico has always accepted death with a quiet resilience.
Many families set up altars in their homes with the favorite foods and
liquor of the
deceased. Some camp out all night at cemeteries "conversing" with deceased loved
ones, eating and drinking and lighting fires believed to help lead spirits back to
earth. The night of November 1 is when the spirits of deceased children are
believed to return; November 2 is when the rest of the dead come back.
On Wednesday, Linda Messier, a Spanish teacher from State College, Pennsylvania,
snapped photos of the embassy altar for her students. As Cortina described the
Americans who have come by, often crying, Messier told her: "I'm one of them."
"I think it's a beautiful tradition," Messier said of the Day of the Dead activities.
The U.S. terrorist attacks have affected more than just Day of the Dead
Juarez police chief Ramon Dominguez warned parents in northern Mexico who
often take their children to the United States to go trick-or-treating to stay home
because "the neighboring country is at war."
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.