“The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it. It is one of his favorite playthings and his most steadfast love.”
Octavio Paz, Mexican poet
The day of the dead is celebrated in many Latin American countries,but nowhere to the extent it is in Mexico. All across the country, almost without exception, people decorate graves and put up colorful ofrendas (altars) in their homes placing photos of their loved ones along with gifts such as sugar skulls, tequila and cigars. We believe that the souls of the deceased return during the night to enjoy this feast with their loved ones. Mexicans may even sing and laugh, and some even sleep in the cemetery next to portable stoves with burning incense for heating up the “deliciosos tamales” – that I miss so much.
Another tradition is writing calaveras in order to satirize some aspect of a person. These are some kind of fake “obituaries”, written in verse, which you dedicate to your family or friends as if they had died.
Now, growing up I never really celebrated the day of the dead since my family was kind of atheist, but we did eat the delicious pan de muertos and sometimes we even strolled around the many small towns surrounding Mexico City just to see the amazing ofrendas in the town squares. My favorite was one in a place called the Anahuacalli, which was Diego Rivera’s house and every year they would display all of the day of the dead decorations this artist made.
So, at the request of a curious Colombian girl I work with, and in order to embrace the true Mexican lifestyle and traditions, we decided to create our first ofrenda in Paris. It was built in memory of Mexican Painter Frida Kahlo.
I also wrote some calaveras for two of my fellow workers. So here it is, the first annual “Calavera & Muertos fest” in Paris!