Updated 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Day of the death: the past and the present

Since pre-Hispanic times in Mexico, the indigenous have worshiped death and conceived as a duality of life, part of the cycle of nature.

Upon arriving the conquerors, the death cult merged with the Catholic religion, giving rise to the tradition of Day of the Dead during the 1st and 2nd of November each year. At this time the Mexicans make a celebration for their dead family members and friends flocking to cemeteries to decorate them with flowers, and in their homes they placed altars, so that the dear souls leave the past and wander a few days around the world, visiting the family, home and friends.

These altars are full of food, candles, incense, liquor, flowers, photographs, music and personal belongings of the deceased; offerings that are prepared with respect for the family to remember those who are gone. Sugar skulls, “pan de muerto”, drawings mock death; verses mocking vivid characters of arts, science or politics are part of this tradition and refer to the famous adage: 'the dead to the living drawer and the big party'.

The aim of the Festival of Traditions of Life and Death is to achieve the active participation of society, Mayan communities and artists, in which cultural diversity in the celebration of Day of the Dead is integrated through the recovery of traditional ethnic practices and contemporary, alluding to this ancient Mexican tradition.

For indigenous peoples of Mexico located in the central and southern region of the country, practices and traditions prevailing in their communities to celebrate the spirits of the ancestors, is one of the deepest and most dynamic customs currently being carried out and one of the most representative and important of their community life social facts.

The ceremonies held each year dedicated to the dead, represent not only the encounter with their ancestors, but also with members of the community, which favors the interaction of families and entire communities. This highlights a wide horizon of ideas that has been enriched throughout the centuries, with more than 60 indigenous groups that have uninterrupted presence in almost all regions of the nation.

The Mayas, like other Mesoamerican peoples, express a profound interest in death, which can be seen in their artistic manifestations during different periods.

For the Maya of the past and the present, the dead are alive, so their spirits are in need of support as much as the living. For this reason they prepare the dishes they used to enjoy in life, to keep them energized during their journey from beyond. To this the Catholic feast of All Saints and All Souls liturgy, both with a long tradition which merged with Christianity introduced by the Spaniards, resulting in the syncretic practice of Hanal Pixán added.

The Hanal Pixán, Day of the Dead or Time of Souls, besides being one of the most intimate practices of families in the Yucatan Peninsula, has the virtue of bringing together many of its members.

It is a time of return: the living, who for various reasons were absent from the family trunk, returning to participate in the preparations for the celebration. Return the souls of loved ones to share food offered to them with love, then, living and dead meet again. And so, from family to family, from one generation to another, this ancient tradition continues through the centuries.