Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Arte e Cultura: Dia de los Muertos

The festival that became the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the god known as the "Lady of the Dead", corresponding to the modern Catrina.

José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure that he called La Calavera de la Catrina ("calavera of the female dandy") as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Posada's striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catrina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances.

Most areas of Mexico celebrate Dia de los Muertos November 1st, honoring children and infants, and November 2nd, honoring adults. Altars are built to give offerings to the deceased that include sweets, food and flowers, all keeping in mind the preferences of the individual being honored.

One of the favorite sweets are sugared skulls, brightly colored and often adorned with a name.

The classic recipe for Pan de Muertos is a sweet bread recipe sometimes including anise seeds and orange flower water. It is shaped like a bun and often decorated with bone-like pieces. The bones represent the lost one and there is normally a baked tear drop on the bread to represent sorrow. The bones are represented in a circle to portray the circle of life.

Mexican marigolds are known as the Flor de Muerto, Flower of the Dead, and are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. They are sold on roadsides leading up to the festivities.

Contrary to the name, Dia de los Muertos is actually a celebration of life. Festivities include music, fireworks, parades, and above all else, love.