For the first time, Mex and I went to an event celebrating Day of the Dead. Ironically, it was a celebration held at the Minnesota History Center which I personally found a little odd.
There were a lot of activities meant to entertain kids and then events which Mex personally doesn’t connect to the celebration like Aztec dancers (though the costumes are amazing and it’s hard not to enjoy the dances). However, the ofrendas
were very similar to the ones in Mexico. In Mexican households and in the cemetaries each family creates an altar with all sorts of things that remind them of the deceased loved
ones. Traditional items left at the ofrendas
vary by state but there are basic similarities throughout Mexico. One such item is the pan de muerto,
bread decorated with bone shapes, which can be found everywhere. Also, the bright orange cempasuchil
flowers, similar to marigolds, are the “flowers of death” and are used all over the country.
Celebrations start on what we Americans celebrate as Halloween with Mexican families setting up their altars and preparing for the deceased spirits to visit. The spirits of the children or angelitos
(little angels) are supposed to revisit their families on earth in the early hours of Nov 1st.
Deceased adult spirits come to visit their families in the early morning hours of Nov 2nd. Usually the favorite foods of the dead person are laid out for their spirit to taste. Tamales, atole (a thick cornmeal drink), beans, rice, chocolate, a glass of tequila, etc, are some examples. Candles are lit and incense is burned. The families spend the evening and days remembering their passed loved ones.
Sugar and candy skulls are also sold in mass along with little candy coffins. In Patzcuaro, where Mexico’s most famous celebration is held, they sell skeletal figurines all year long. We saw them in March when we were there.
itions, although seemingly Christian in nature, actually date back to pre-Hispanic rituals dedicated to Mictlantecuhtli
, the Mexica (Aztec) lord of the underworld, and Huitzilopochtli
, the Aztec war deity to whom many people were sacrificed. In an attempt to convert the natives of Mexico, Spanish priests moved the date to coincide with All Soul’s Day. I guess the Aztec dancing does come in to play….
Though Mex’s family has been honoring his mother on Day of the Dead for 16 years, this will be the first year for his sister Hilaria who died of cancer last December. They also honor all the grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Mex also has a sister who died at age 7 (who was older than him) and a brother who I believe was still-born (he isn’t counted on his mother’s line of births that’s on Mex’s birth certificate though) but the details are fuzzy on that since it was way before Mex’s time and his family doesn’t really discuss things like that. I hope next year we can go to Mexico during this time because I know Mex would like to be part of the memorial/celebration after being gone for so many years. I personally, think this is a wonderful idea and told Mex I hope we would do this tradition in our house when we have children or that we should even do it now. How nice to spend at least one day a year remembering those you love who are no longer with you. Something I bet not a lot of us take time to do after the initial grieving period is over.
For anyone interested in learning more about the Day of the Dead celebrations in the Twin Cities I will let you know about a few things I know that are going on. All of the events are FREE>
Friday the 31st – Dia de los Angelitos Traditional Aztec Danza at the Neighborhood House, 179 Robie St E, St. Paul. Starts at 7pm and is followed by music and food.
Saturday the 1st – 1-3 pm Sugar Skull making and information about history of Day of the Dead at the gym in the Neighborhood House (address above).
6pm – Gathering at La Placita, 175 Cesar Chavez St, St. Paul. A procession through the neighborhood starts at 6:30 ending at the Neighborhood house (address above) with music, food and a bonfire.
Sunday the 2nd, at Global Market in Minneapolis there is free Mexican food from 2-5 and I’m guessing some ofrendas will be there on display. I’m sure there must be events held at Mercado Central on Lake & Bloomington as well but I haven’t seen any information on those.
Some of you may or may not know that Sept 15th – Oct 15th is Hispanic Heritage Month. Interestingly, I am more excited about this than my Mexican husband. So far I’ve tried to get him to go to the Independence Day celebration on Lake Street (although that was technically on the 14th) and a free Flamenco Dance event in Minnehaha Park. Both times I was shot down. I’ve already printed off tickets for a Latino Family Day on Oct 11th in St. Paul which I’m sure we won’t go to either. I will put my foot down on Oct 26th when there is a Day of the Dead event at the MN History Center and go without him if I have to.
I’ve told him that I would like to explore different Latino outreach events because when we have children I think it is incredibly important for them to feel a part of the Latino community. We have talked about living in Mexico for 6 to 9 months when we have kids when they are about three to five so they can really become fluent in Spanish and, more importantly, get to know Mex’s family and town. We both agree on this point and hope our jobs at that time would allow us to do this. I think it is crucial that any children we have would spend time in Mexico and I believe it would help them appreciate life in the States a lot more.
Since when the day (still way in the future) comes to have children and decide to raise them I think these discussions about Latino/American culture will become a lot more at the forefront of our lives. I don’t force my husband to attend events even though I am interested in them and try to support him by going. The only one he does enjoy is the Cinco de Mayo celebration in St. Paul. Trying to blend our cultures is very difficult and I feel like his Mexican heritage is always getting watered down. We only speak English together, don’t dance to salsa or reggae music (we don’t dance at all actually!), don’t attend many Quinceañera (girl’s 15th birthday parties) or huge baptisms parties of strangers like his family does… The only thing we really do is cook Mexican food and try to share it with others.
Mex seems generally disinterested in events here, mainly because he views them as not really “Mexican.” I won’t say he is ashamed of being Mexican because he is definitely not. He’s just not the type who pastes a flag on the back of his car or flies one over his house. When we were in Mexico he enjoyed listening to music in Spanish, talking in Spanish, telling me stories about Mexico. When he is in Minnesota he focuses his thoughts here. What he should be doing here to be successful, to communicate, etc.
I asked him once if he knew what his heritage was, what kind of Indian was in his blood or how much Spanish. He says they are all mixed and has no idea what kind and no interest in finding out. To me it would be fascinating to know if his Indian blood was Aztec or Mayan or Incan or some other tribe. Just like I traced my family tree back to see what country all my ancestors came from so I can tell you exactly how much of everything I am (except for 1/16 that is up in the air between Danish and French/Canadian due to birth certificate discrepancy). I think many Americans can identify exactly what their heritage is and Mex has no interest in that discovery and really no resource to find out even if he did want to know.
In Mexico, for hundreds of years full-blooded Indians were the lowest class and then mestizos (a mix of Indian and Spanish or African) were the next lowest. There is still a definite divide in the country between these groups, especially when looking at income level. Most of the poorest people in the country are the indigenous people. I guess that is why my husband never really thought about what parts had made him a whole… In Mexico you are a Mexican first and you don’t really want to draw attention to the other parts of your heritage, especially the indigenous ones.
Hopefully, my husband and I will find a better balance between the American and Latino worlds here in Minnesota because part of what makes him special to me is his culture and his past and I want to help him keep those things alive and appreciate them with him… As much as he’ll allow me to I guess!