November 2nd, 2010.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
As a Mexican, I have always enjoyed all the different traditions, festivities, colors and sounds from my culture. Each year I eagerly wait for January 6th to savor the rosca de reyes, I have always smiled with the carnivals in my hometown Mazatlan, screamed with all my heart ¡VIVA MEXICO! every independence day… and even though I have always paid my respect to the dead, this November 2nd is a special one to me.
Having lost someone just recently, I decided this year to be a participant rather than a spectator. As this date approaches, driving in the streets I can see vendors with flowers and sweets to decorate the graves of our beloved ones. The colors, the smells and the overall feel are the one of a celebration, and I can finally understand why.
Last week I decided to put an altar to the one that lives in my heart, my mom. Throughout school, in the news, with friends and relatives, I had seen what an altar looks like, what it shows and what it represents… but never had to put one myself. And as I made a list of what I’d be needing, I was delighted to see the many options I have: flowers (natural or fake ones), all sort of candles, colored paper, sugar-edible skulls, catrinas and the traditional pan de muerto, among many other things. I also made a list of the favorite drink and dishes to prepare and I can tell you that I enjoyed the process very much.
And yesterday night I set the altar, put the colored paper in place and prepared the dishes my mom would have loved: quesadillas with black beans, beef and chicken tamales (with red & green sauce), pan de muerto and arroz con leche as a desert. For drinks I placed a cup of hot coffee (she always had to have it in the morning!) a glass of water and a steaming cup of atole. Lots of candles and flowers… and the result was amazing. I was fascinated by the colorful display with some of the food she enjoyed. I was overwhelmed with joy remembering her and in my soul I knew she was very happy as well.
Somebody told once me that the Day of the Dead is an opportunity to recognize death and to celebrate life, and I believe so. I believe it is a chance to joyfully honor the lives of our beloved ones, to look back and smile at all the memories we will cherish forever and to appreciate every moment we are given.
Let our actions speak for themselves so when our time comes, the ones we leave behind celebrate our life with as much happiness as if we were with them. Remember, you truly die when no one remembers you.
¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!