in rural Paris, Iowa, and Wordpress

El día de los muertos

This is my fourth Day of the Dead. Coming up on it I still have every intention to go watch the parade and enjoy the shows and remarkable costumery uptown. Last year and this year I never got around to going. I do still visit the cemetery. The cemetery remains an authentic thing like death itself.

The big cemetery is situated on Camino Viejo al Panteón here in my neighborhood, my colonia, not far from where I live. The small antique cemetery uptown where the old Spanish and Creole grandes are buried is never open anymore, I suspect because of the fear of vandalism. Camino Viejo was impassable Friday, thronged with people laden with flowers going to the cemetery. The whole neighborhood was swamped given the parking situation. There was not much to be done on Friday other than stay out of the way. Any photographs would simply have shown a sea of heads. I went Saturday to take in the scene, the displays of flowers left there, some of them spectacular. Most of the living had moved on to the celebrations.

Fields like this are common in the countryside. Flowers must be supplied to that part of the Day of the Dead throng that does not grow its own.

I shall try again to say something helpful in grasping the spirit of this fiesta for those who have not experienced it, although I myself am still at sea. Initially, I regarded it as a mix of Memorial Day and Halloween. That was a decent starting point, but that is all it is, a starting point. The longer I live here the more indigenous mysticism I see in the dominant religion of this country and the less Catholicism. Catholicism is a thin veneer over a world view that is much older than the church. In the rural cemeteries families commonly picnic with their dead through the night by the graves. The ghosts of the norteamericano Halloween are the other–the them. The dead of the Day of the Dead are very much a part of us. The Day of the Dead is a celebration of the dead with the dead. It is also a celebration of death itself. Clear as mud, huh?

The Drawers.

The section in the rear for families of lesser means.

The children here and there.

That is not to say that the Mexican people do not mourn, but consider the way in which that is done. Even though the cemetery was nearly empty Saturday, I blundered upon a Ranchero band playing.

A young widow was kneeling at the grave of her husband with their daughter at her side. I believe the man in the orange tee to be her brother. She had engaged the small band to play a set of Ranchero music for her man as she alternately prayed and spoke with him. Ranchero is one of those genres we associate with Mexico when we hear it even if we do not know the name. It is polka-like music. Even those Ranchero songs laden with sadness move along at a brisk pace.

I certainly was not looking for something like this, but there I was. I could not leave at that point. I listened to the music and watched and waited and took these photographs to show you this. The camera can be an intrusive thing, but I kept firing it anyway without thinking too much about it. I do not believe that I disturbed anyone. When all was done, nonetheless, I assuaged my guilt by paying the band for this set, con permiso of course.

The norteamericano section.

12 Responses to “El día de los muertos”

  1. pommepal

    The interesting thing about blogs is that you hear about different cultures and traditions first hand, very colourful photos

    • StephenBrassawe

      In truth I do hope you find this one interesting at times, pommepal, because this is a culture that I love even though there is an aspect of great sadness and tragedy about it.

  2. StephenBrassawe

    This blog is not of the quality of Wanderlust Gene’s blog, pommepal, but I do hope that occasionally you find something interesting or entertaining here.

  3. Jamie Dedes

    Oh, yes, Catholicism the accepted veneer. That’s my understanding too – from reading – not visiting – I was there for one day only! I love their use of color – they are so adventurous – look how rigid the norteamericano sepulco.

    So much color and light. You caught it well. Makes me smile.

    • StephenBrassawe

      On the subject of color not directly related to these photos, Jamie, I am convinced that the Mexican people see a different color wheel than I do. I speak particularly of the colors they delight in putting together. That all is just fine with me. I might have gotten a little stodgy about my own color wheel.


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