Having lived our entire lives in the United States, neither of us had really experienced the Day of the Dead. We had both heard about it and had an image of what it would be, but we were highly misinformed during our high school Spanish classes - who would've thought? We actually did not see a whole lot of what we imagined as Day of the Dead marketing junk (like skulls and such). But rather, we saw a lot of flowers, vegetables, and pine needles instead.
|At the cemetery in Zinacantan.|
We went with our friends Xunka and Yoli to the cemetery where their family members are buried to experience the Day of the Dead with them. We didn't really know what to expect, but Xunka told us that we would just stay in the cemetery all morning. And that is exactly what we did.
Decorating the graves:
|Coke is used as part of the Dia de los Muertos traditions and is poured around the graves.|
We literally spent the majority of the day sitting around the graves and talking. We had to wait for the Latin priest to come and bless the grave (or something). He sang and sprinkled water on the graves and as soon as he was done, we packed up and left.
|With Yoli and Xunka and their mom.|
During the day, the graves were watched over by family members who lit candles and made sure the flowers were watered and taken care of. Since we didn't know anyone in the graveyard, we just walked around and watched what others were doing. The cemetery is not laid out like those in the US - and many graves are simply mounds of dirt with a hole near the head (where they put candles) and there doesn't seem to be much organization. Caitlin and I were really concerned about stepping on the graves, but after a while we followed the example of the Mexicans and walked wherever we wanted to.
|This is the guy who went around gathering candles as part of the priest ceremony.|
The graves are covered in pine needles, and offerings of fruits and vegetables. After the day is over, the family gathers up their offerings and go back to the house and eat them. At each home, there are also altars built to remember those who have passed on. It is traditional to put out plates of food for loved ones, and it is said that the spirit of the deceased comes and enjoys the food. If you eat it the next day, it is said to have lost its flavor. We weren't about to eat day old altar food, but I'm sure the rumors are true.
After going to the cemetery, we walked around SC for a while and returned to the center to see if there were any festivities going on - but we didn't see much of anything. Most people were at the cemetery or waiting until the night to get plastered in remembrance of their loved ones. We didn't feel like doing either, so after a few hours in town, we returned home to a relaxing Dia de los Muertos.