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Nov 2, 2017

Celebrating “The Day of the Dead”

The Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead, known as Día de Los Muertos, is being observed today in that country and parts of northern Belize as well. It is a time to remember and honor deceased loved ones, but it is not a gloomy or morbid occasion. Rather it is a festive and colorful holiday celebrating the lives of those who have passed on.  Mexicans visit cemeteries, decorate the graves and spend time there, in the presence of their deceased friends and family members. In the case of the Mexican Embassy here, the tradition is to honor recently deceased prominent Mexicans, as with singer Juan Gabriel and architect Teodoro Gonzalez last year. This year the honor is being extended to Mexican realist artist Jose Luis Cuevas and writer and  cartoonist Eduardo Humberto ‘Rius’ del Rio Garcia. Like many Mexicans, the more than four hundred recently killed in the two devastating earthquakes hitting Mexico City and Oaxaca will also be remembered.  Earlier today, News Five’s Aaron Humes visited the altar on display at the Mexican Institute in Belize for tonight’s observance.

 

Diego Sapien Muñoz

Diego Sapien Muñoz, Cultural Attaché, Mexican Institute

“Mexicans have, really, a familiar relationship with death. We don’t see death as mourning; we see it more as a celebration. So we have music, we have mariachis; we have what the dead liked, what our departed liked. On the day we go and celebrate what he did and what he wanted.”

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

In Mexican tradition and culture, the dead, it seems, never truly die; they hover and wait for what Christians believe will be the ultimate reunion in heaven, where, as the Apostles’ Creed holds, Jesus Christ will convene to judge the quick and the dead. Until then, those still on earth meet annually with their dearly departed in a tradition known as El Dia de los Muertos – “The Day of the Dead.”

 

Diego Sapien Muñoz

“It has its origins in Pre-Hispanic times, and from the Catholics when the Spaniards came to Mexico and colonized Mexico with ‘conquista.’ But it’s a mixture; it’s a syncretic belief between the pre-Hispanic times and the Catholic Church with the All Saints celebration. So it’s a mixture between both celebrations: the pre-Hispanic, indigenous beliefs to the Catholic Church’s beliefs and until now those two beliefs have been merged with the Day of the Dead – the altars, mainly the offering that we put on this first day, the All Saints’ Day, and November second, that is the main day for the Day of the Dead – El Dia de Muertos.”

 

Parts of northern Belize also observe the day due to lingering Hispanic heritage, while in the West the similar Central American observance of Finados is observed. The specially constructed altar is a shrine to the life of the deceased and features a few of their favorite things.

 

Diego Sapien Muñoz

“As Mexicans we put up our altar for our dearly departed and mainly for our departed from November last year to November this year.  The day exactly, we put on the altar on November first some elements of drawings, pictures of the recently departed; this year we see Jose Luis Cuevas and ‘Rius’, we had some elements, some paint, some brushes of the painters, pencils, so those elements need to be in the altar. We go also to the cemetery; we pay our respects to our dead over there; we go to the tomb, we go with the family, we go and meet with our dead.  We believe that the dead come on the eve of the second of November, and eat, drink some tequila, drink some beer if they want to drink beer and they return back to the inframundo (underworld).”

 

So with no reason to be scared, those who may be grieving and others who are just curious are invited for the reception and presentation of the altar and assorted goodies.

 

Diego Sapien Muñoz

“We’re going to have Mexican cocoa; we’re going to have Mexican aguas frescas; and the traditional pan de muerto – that if some people is familiar with it it’s really tasty, it’s peculiar; it has a special taste, come and enjoy. For everybody it’s free so come and enjoy a little piece of bread – if you have a picture of your departed we can put it on the altar so you can come and pay respects to them. We’re also going to have music. It’s a family event, so everybody can get to know why we do this in Mexico.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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