Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende I

It Goes Back a Long Way

The dead are always with us, and in Mexico on the Day of the Dead they are invited to enjoy the ofrendas, or offerings—of food, photos, favorite objects—that the living set out for them. Under the portales that flank San Miguel’s Jardin Principal, the living and the dead may eat in close proximity:

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The Day of the Dead descends from the great cultures of Mesoamerica— Olmec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan, Toltec, Mixtec, Aztec—spiritual ancestors, masters of death and life:

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Students made these portraits of Mesoamerican symbols and gods the traditional way: with seeds, beans, corn (maiz) rice, chilies and flowers—especially marigolds, the flowers of the dead:

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A modern guide to the spirit world:

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Quincunce, the Cross of Quetzalcóatl—a cross with a balancing center. It might be a flower, it might be the harmonic encounter of four butterflies, symbolizing balance between spiritual and material, intuitive and rational:

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Tlaloc, god of the life-giving rain, whose name nevertheless means “earth” and who is also associated with the watery world of the dead:

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A small guardian of the spirit world:

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By his left foot, the “M” of Mictecacihuatl, Lady of the Dead, Queen of Mictlan, the Aztec underworld. The two days now collectively celebrated as the Day of the Dead started out in Mesoamerica as a month-long celebration led by Mictecacihuatl:

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In the meantime, in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church added All Souls’ Day (Nov.2) to All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1), thus finally recognizing and officially incorporating the enduring tradition, dating at least from ancient Rome, of sharing a meal with the departed.

The rest, as they say, is history: the Roman Catholic Spanish invaded Mexico, and the Church, always alert to opportunities to co-opt local rituals, managed to persuade the indigenous inhabitants to shrink their celebration to two days at the beginning of November. But the ancient gods endure, and Mictecacihuatl now presides over the Day of the Dead.

Contemplating the old gods while, upper right, the rituals of the new gods are celebrated via cell phones and an ATM line:

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Finis

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One Response to “Day of the Dead in San Miguel de Allende I”

  1. chelseacullen Says:

    Reblogged this on chelseacullen and commented:
    The art from the day of the dead is so interesting! This culture in general is fascinating. Celebrating the dead? As Americans that’s not an idea that we’re used to. This art is made through traditional ways as we read about.

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