Halloween on the 31st of October and “Dia de Los Muertos” on the 1st and 2nd of November make for an interesting cultural contrast. Halloween reminds us to protect ourselves from the spirits that move among us by placing a candle in a Jack o’ Lantern while Muertos invites them in for a drink. Leave it to Mexico to take any occasion and add good food, music and drink.
Muertos is unique in that Mexicans take the remembrance of deceased members of the family and proudly share it with anyone, stranger or friend. On the November 1st and 2nd families gather in cemeteries to elaborately adorn the graves of loved ones with flowers, candles, sand murals, and welcome the souls of loved ones back to spend the night together. Throughout the night family members alive or dead come and go to the graveyard, musicians sing songs, hot food is served up and of course glasses of mescal are passed around.
They do the same in their homes by building altars made of cane stalks to welcome back the souls of the dead, the bright orange flowers serving as beacons to attract the souls, the glasses filled with water a place the souls can occupy. Favorite foods and drink, or favorite items are placed on the alter.
For our part we built an altar on the patio of my studio, a place for wandering souls to spend a couple of days. In the evenings we visited two cemeteries beautifully decorated for the reunion between this world and the spirit world.