LA NOCHE DE LOS MUERTITOS
(THE NIGHT OF THE DEAD)
I was aware of death when I was still very young. I remember that by the age of 10, the idea of the finite nature of existence was already a source of silent suffering, the absolute void both terrifying and unimaginable.
In Spain, as in the majority of western countries, people turn their backs on death. We deny it; we look away, except when it is inevitable. Then, in the definitive absence of those who have left us, comes the growing forgetfulness of those who remain. In contrast to our western ways, in Mexico people not only live with faith in the afterlife, they also behave as if the dead were still with them.
On the night of the 1st-2nd November, mourners and flowers flood the cemeteries, coffee or tequila is drunk, the deceased’s favourite meal is eaten, and music is played. The atmosphere is that of a party. There are also those who suffer, but it seems more important to remember the dead with joy. Many people set up altars in their homes and deck them with images of the loved ones who have passed away; in this way they are kept alive in their memories.
We know that times change and cultural influences modify traditions. During the Night of the Dead, Halloween blends with the celebration of a tradition that has its roots in pre-Colombian times; some children and youths go to the cemetery in costume and here, once more, Mexico reaffirms its status as the surrealist country par excellence.
Xochimilco and Tlahuac Cemeteries (Mexico State).