Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dia de los Muertos

A first for Prescott: the celebration of the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Sponsored by the Sharlot Hall Museum. I did not attend the opening on the Square or the procession to the museum, instead arriving in the early afternoon to dancers in swirling skirts...

...and music by a mariachi band. Oh, I like that trumpet! Reminds me of Spanish pasadobles. Too bad the ubiquitous guitar and keyboard have totally trumped the brass in modern pop music. Just incidentally, has anybody else noticed the resemblance between Mexican mariachi music and polkas played by Polish bands from Milwaukee or Chicago? Same rhythm, similar tunes. Turns out that about the time the Conquistadors moved into Mexico, polkas were the rage throughout Europe...

At one point, the audience was invited to dance. The outdoor celebration ended with more swirling skirts!

Inside the museum were the altars to honor the dead plus the decorations for the holiday. I don't know if this greeter is Mictecacihuatl, Aztec name for the Lady of the Dead (or Santa Muerte to some) or if the doll (also known as a Catrina) below is a more likely representation. Notes Wikipedia, Many people believe that during the Day of the Dead, it is easier for the souls of the departed to visit the living. People will go to cemeteries to communicate with the souls of the departed, and will build private altars, containing the favorite foods and beverages, and photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them.

The Day of the Dead is not meant to be scary, like our Halloween; the skull and skeleton motifs are as often as not humorous. Candy skulls are made from sugar, chocolate and amaranto, to be eaten.

The museum requested that Prescott residents create altars suitable to the holiday. Above is one celebrating an Air Force pilot; below are two other altars. The altars, BTW, will be on display for the next 10 days in the new exhibition hall currently being created from the original library space.

Kids in the Spanish class at one of the local schools also made pictures and displays for the Dia de los Muertos. I was fascinated by their choice of subjects!

The marigold is the flower for the celebration; fortunately the Mexican Day of the Dead is a happy occasion and so the marigold is not tainted by its association with death as apparently chrysanthemums are in France. Lucy mentioned this in her post about trying to see the grim Dance of Death figures in a chapel from the Middle Ages. Also recommended: a visit to Touch the Wind who took pictures of a Dia de los Muertos celebration in Tucson.

McCain Finale: Prescott at midnight -- candidate McCain's final speech of this election season. Tombo took pictures of the Square being prepped for this major occasion.

10 comments:

Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

an excellent and edifying post, keep it up kid.

Hermano

Catalyst said...

Nicely done, GJ. For a few pictures from south of the border, check out the Tijuana Bible blog.

Granny J said...

Hi, bro -- I always like it when I'm learning something new! Or at least most of the time.

cat-A -- I'll have to take a look. Thanks for the lead.

Granny J said...

Here's the URL for the Tijuana Bible Blog: http://tjbible.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

Bravo, Sharlot Hall Museum!

Granny J, I also have noticed a similarity between Mexican "Nortena" music with their use of accordions, and the Zydeco music from Southwest Louisiana.

I used to go to Zydeco dances, and when I began to teach English as a Second Language in the early '90s, during parties my students would play CDs of Nortena music. The rhythms are so similiar!

~Anon in AV.

quilteddogs said...

Very, very cool.

Granny J said...

anon av -- Interesting musical comparison...

qd -- the turnout was moderate, but then this was the first year for the event. Perhaps it will grow in years ahead.

worldphotos4 said...

Super post. Nice pictures.

Lucy said...

Fascinating, and enjoyably educational!

Another blogger, Bee Drunken, a Texan in Europe, says she finds the Mexican Day of the Dead more disturbing *because* it tkaes place in the daytime! It seems like being a little over-familair to picnic with the departed!

Granny J said...

lucy -- I kinda like the combination of spitting in the eye of death and celebrating the lives of the formerly living. Beats that losing chess game or the guy in leathers on the motorcycle.

 
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