Mexicans Mark Day of the Dead
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MEXICO CITY (AP)
-- Mexicans left the glitzy costume parties of
Halloween behind on Wednesday and turned to the centuries-old
tradition of marking Dia de Los Muertos -- the Day of the Dead.
Markets did a
booming business in the yellow cempasuchil flowers and
candles believed to attract the spirits of the dead to home altars and
cemeteries for annual visits with their surviving relatives. Quiet graveside
gatherings were mixed with the more irreverent customs of the day, such
as eating Pan de Muerto, or Dead Bread, which is decorated with dough
shaped to look like bones.
The Day of the
Dead is celebrated on two days in Mexico: All Saints'
Day, Nov. 1, and All Souls' Day, Nov. 2. Its ceremonies mix Roman
Catholic beliefs with pre-Hispanic Indian customs in which food and
drink is offered to welcome back the souls of the departed, who are
thought to offer help, protection or counsel to the living.
Wednesday bought candy skulls for friends -- complete
with their names -- and some Mexicans composed humorous ``death
poems'' lamenting the passing of friends, co-workers and public figures
still very much alive.
One such poem,
published Wednesday in the newspaper Reforma, was
dedicated to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. It suggested
the party's Day of the Dead this year came on July 2, when it lost
presidential elections for the first time in 71 years.
In the southern
state of Chiapas, Tzotzil Indians entered cemeteries with
brass bands and copal incense intended to wake the dead.
``The music is
an invitation to the dead to leave their tombs and visit their
families, and eat what they liked in life,'' said Mariano Hernandez, an
organizer of the festivities in the town of Zinacantan. On Thursday, the
same bands will lead the dead of Zinacantan back to their tombs.
In Mexico City,
Emilia Alonso Aranda and her daughter, Martha
Margarita, had come to Dolores cemetery to spread cempasuchil flowers
over Alonso's husband's grave and stay awhile.
``When my children
have a problem, I always tell them to ask the advice
of their father, God and the Virgin of Guadalupe,'' said Alonso, whose
husband died in 1990.
cemetery, people sat beside tombs, chatting quietly with
each other and talking to the dead. Some hired trios of musicians who
wait outside graveyards offering to sing the favorite songs of the dead at
had brought her boyfriend along to greet her father.
Later, Alonso and her children planned an offering at home with her late
husband's favorite food and drink -- stuffed chilies and chicken in a
chocolate-and-chile sauce and a list of alcoholic beverages including
mescal, vodka, cane liquor and pulque, a fermented drink made from the
``It's a beautiful
time to remember the dead,'' Alonso said. ``The good
things about them, and the bad, because they're human and they're still
tombstone echoes that belief. It reads, ``His body has
gone, but his soul is still in our hearts.''