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Dia de los Muertos and Halloween

Every year I lament that in the US All Saints Day and All Souls Day have become excuses for trick or treat and vandalism generally. In Mexico and almost all other Western countries, the religious meaning has not been lost. In Mexico especially these days preserve the old awareness of death, characteristic of Spanish Catholicism and pre-Hispanic Mexico. I borrow these words from Luis Durán, who is organizing the Mexican festivities at Stanford:

"Her face is unforgettable and she goes by many names: La Catrina, la Flaca, la Huesuda, la Pelona--Fancy Lady, Skinny, Bony, Baldy. A fixture in Mexican society, she's not some trendy fashion model, but La Muerte--Death. November 1, All Saints Day, and November 2, All Souls Day are marked throughout Mexico by a plethora of intriguing customs that vary widely according to the ethnic roots of each region. Common to all, however, are colorful adornments and lively reunions at family burial plots, the preparation of special foods, offerings laid out for the departed on commemorative altars and religious rites that are likely to include noisy fireworks. The Day of the Dead is a time for the dead to return home and visit loved ones, feast on their favorite foods and listen to their favorite music. In the homes, family members honor their deceased with ofrendas or offerings which may consist of photographs, bread, other foods, flowers, toys and other symbolic offerings".

Ronald Hilton - 10/29/02