Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day of the Dead

I can’t believe another year has passed and it is time to celebrate Day of the Dead again.  There really is nothing like it in the States except for within a few random Latino communities. 

Cecilia and I had 5 huge garbage bags of brightly colored flowers to carry down to the cemetery.   We walked down because there is no passage for cars.  Mauricio (Ceci’s brother) met us part way to help us carry them.  We got there before the rest of the families did.  But it wasn’t too long of a wait.  Soon Balmore, Rosa, Pilar, Elmer, and 3 others from Alejandria were there.  We divvied up the flowers.  I went with Rosa and Mauricio to find and decorate 3 family crosses: Rosa’s mom Tomasa, her father Juan and an aunt.  By the time we got back to where Ceci and the rest were, they were just about done with their four graves.  We took a bunch of flowers over to Balmore’s aunt’s graves.  The sisters had died within a month of each other.  Then we walked to Balmore’s great-grand father’s grave and decorated.  Then to one of his distant cousins who died alone – he was burned when his little house burned down.  He has no family so they make sure they decorate his grave and remember him every year.  

This is a day that fills the senses.  The bright colors of all the flowers – both real and fake contrast with the freshly painted and mostly bright white or silver crosses and it fills your eyes.  The sounds are of people chatting, laughing, reconnecting, and children selling their painting skills for a penny a letter.  The older boys will paint the the whole cross for as little as a quarter.  Depends upon the size of the job.  There are more children walking through the cemetery selling cut up fruits and veggies and juices as well as men and women walking around trying to sell more flowers and candies.  The sounds are like music.  Your nose is filled with the smells of the fresh paint on the crosses mixed in with the earthy smell of the freshly rearranged earth.  And there is food: pupusas, chicken and meat are being cooked on the streets just outside the walls of the cemetery.  People carry their large flat griddles to be close to the activity and take advantage of all the people that come in to visit their dead.  All those mixed smells are really quite pleasant.  And the tastes: sugar cane cut and ready for us to chew out the sweetness. Papaya, coconut, cucumber, fruits I can't even name are in little baggies ready to add lemon juice and salt and even chile.  Fresh juices are everywhere.  And for our sense of touch – the handshakes and hugs of friends.  And whoops – the accidental touching of still wet paint on a gravesite cross.    

Mauricio and Cecilia walking down to the cemetery - I'm right behind them with my bag!

We bought papaya and jicama from our friend!
The ever present police protection
The walk to and from the cemetery is steep - both ways!
Sugar cane, coconut and a wide assortment of fresh juices

Coming in to decorate the gravesites

Pop and pupusas!
One of the 'fancier' food stalls

Flowers to sell
Simple decorations - clean away the trash and brush

The first step is clearing away the overgrowth

The whole family participates

This man yes - was passed out from a drunk
Painting for a penny a letter

Young entrepreneurs

A little more elaborate


One of the oldest tombs in the Berlin cemetery

A more humble grave

Possibly the most humble I saw today
Balmore and his cousin's grave
Balmore's aunts who died within a month of each other

Cecilia begining the process for Balmore's aunts

Cecilia's aunt

Photo captured before the winds took the confetti away

Cecilia's grandfather (father of Rosa)

Rosa waiting for the fresh paint for her uncle - 25 cents for this cross

Mauricio waiting to start the process of decorating

Mauricio scrubbing his sneakers clean... kind of a futile effort if you ask me...

Lupita hoping to sell all her flowers

People will be going to the cemetery all day long

A very special day

No comments: