Monday, November 17, 2014

Day of the Dead / All Saints' Day in Maltrata, Veracruz

Back at the end of October/ beginning of November, I made a quick trip to Maltrata so that I could be there for (part of ) Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) / Todos Santos (All Saints' Day). Día de Muertos combines prehispanic beliefs and traditions with Catholicism's All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. It is believed that the souls of those departed are allowed to return and visit with the family. The explanation I've most commonly heard/read was that November 1st is for children and November 2nd is for adults. Back i2012  I spent Día de Muertos with my Maltrata family for the first time. They explained that it actually begins on October 28th, when the souls of people who died in accidents return (I'm not sure if that belief is held throughout Mexico). October 30th is when the souls of unbaptized children return (once again, this was new to me and I'm not sure if it's the same in all parts of Mexico). The souls of children return to their family from 12pm on October 31st until 12pm on November 1st and the souls of adults return to their family from 12pm on November 1st to 12pm on November 2nd.

I arrived on the 31st in time to help set up the altar. We added white paper and papel picado (colorful tissue paper, now sometimes plastic, cut into designs), marigolds (cempasúchil), white flowers (referred to as "nube" or "cloud"), and a pinkish/purple flower (referred to as "terciopelo" or "velvet" for its texture or "moco de pavo," comparing it to the skin that hangs over a turkey's beak). At noon, when the souls of the children arrived, they lit a candle, a votive candle, and incense. Throughout the afternoon, they continued adding things to the alter, including candles (one for each child, plus one for the forgotten child who doesn't have anyone to light a candle for him/her), sweets, toys, mugs of milk, grapes, oranges, salt, and water. 

They prepared the fava beans, black beans, and corn to take to the mill to be ground the next day in order to make tamales

We also visited the altars that had been set up around the town hall.

On November 1st, they began to prepare the food for the altar, including the tamales (alverjon - fava beans and frijol - black bean). 

At noon, they added more candles to the altar for the returning souls of the adults, lighting those and the votive candles. They began to add fruit, tequila, bread, and tamales

Later they would make a pathway with marigold petals, leading from the door to the altar, and continue making food for the altar, including manjarThe food is added to the altar right after it's prepared, while it's still hot, and always served on a new plate/bowl/cup. 

I had to head back to the DF, but more family joined on November 2nd, going to the cemetery after the souls left at noon and then returning to the house to eat. 

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