The Day of the Dead - A Lively Affair
The Day of the Dead - A lively affair
Two Thursdays ago, on the eve of the celebration of Halloween, the Mexican Embassy celebrated the annual El DÌa de los Muertos - the day of the dead.
Well-wishers and supporters made their way to the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica auditorium, off Trafalgar Road, to commemorate the tradition, practised by the indigenous communities of Mexico and other Latin American countries. The event, recently introduced to the island, was nothing short of an exciting Jamexican affair.
According to the Mexican ambassador to Jamaica, Gerardo Lozano, the celebration of the day of the dead is the fusion of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Catholic feasts, bringing together two universes. One marked by indigenous belief systems, the other by world views introduced by the Europeans in the 16th century. The indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead was proclaimed as the "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" by the UNESCO, in 2003.
Taking place each year at the end of October to the beginning of November, this period also marks the completion of the annual cycle of cultivation of maize, the country's predominant food crop.
In celebrating the transitory return to earth of the deceased relatives and loved ones, they pay homage to the late Mexican Nobel Prize writer Octavio Paz, showing appreciation for the work he had done.
Based on tradition, "Families facilitate the return of the souls to Earth by laying flower petals, candles and offerings along the path leading from the cemetery to their homes. The decease's favourite dishes are prepared and placed around the home shrine and the tomb with flowers and typical handicrafts, such as paper cut-outs. Great care is taken with all aspects of the preparations, for it is believed that the dead are capable of bringing prosperity (e.g. an abundant maize harvest) or misfortune (e.g. illness, accidents, financial difficulties) upon their families, depending on how satisfactorily the rituals are executed," noted the ambassador.
With formalities aside, specially invited guests made their way to the cultural culinary goodness on offer. Echoes of the native Mexican tongues filled the auditorium in celebration while illustrations of previous Day of the Dead celebrations hung proudly, decorating and giving life to the pure white walls.
The highlight of the evening came with this year's festive display, located front and centre, created by the wife of the Mexican ambassador, Mariza Lozano. It included joyous skeletons, flags, colourful masks, and a wide array of native Mexican food. It not only functioned as the main setting for the event, it was also a festive backdrop for many pictorial debuts.