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Are You Ready to Give Up The Past–Part II (The Day of The Dead Celebrations)

Alter for Day of the Dead -Skull

Alter for Day of the Dead -Skull

 

The Day of the Dead celebrations or “El Dia de Los Muertos,” as it is called in Spanish is a tradition which has its roots in ancient Mesoamerican culture. In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, many alters or “ofrendas” are set up in the streets, in restaurants, in businesses and in homes to honor the loved ones who have departed. It is also a time when families gather in the cemeteries to clean up the graves and adorn them with flowers and to commune with those who have gone before. And although it is Mexico’s way of laughing at death, it is also a celebration of life.

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Several temporary markets pop up during this time selling the items needed to play out this annual ritual. These markets constructed of tents as far as the eye can see are adorned with brightly colored hanging cut out paper flags and have tables set up laden with tiers of “alfeniques,” which are colorful confectionery figurines handmade of sugar and decorated to depict such things as skulls, skeletons, coffins, animals and food which are used to place on the alters.

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The alters are made up of the alfeniques and flowers—the signature flower being the orange marigold, photos, candles, momentos, and food and drink beloved of the one who has passed.

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A major part of the celebration is the “Catrina” parade held in El Jardin which is the town square or central plaza where everyone hangs out. You never know what’s going to happen there. One day while we were there, the doors of the Parroquia church located on the plaza flung open and a bride and groom and throngs of people exited and we became participants in a wedding celebration. The most unique part of the celebration were these huge dancing puppets on stilts called “mojigangas” representing the bride and groom.

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On the night of the Catrina Parade, crowds of people gathered in El Jardin to watch people dressed up as “Catrinas,” march around the square and there was even a competition to pick the best costume. The Mojigangas also parade. La Calavera Catrina was a zinc etching by Jose Posada depicting the image of a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. It was Posada’s illustration of a person who was ashamed of his Indian origins and dressed imitating the French style while wearing lots of makeup to make his skin look whiter. La Catrina is Mexico’s Grand Dame of Death and she has become an icon of Mexico’s Day of the Dead.  Here is a gallery of some incredible  pictures that I captured of the Catrina parade. These gracious people just allowed me to walk up to them and take pictures.

(click on the pictures to reveal a manual slideshow)

(Click on the pictures to reveal a manual slide show)

 

Finally, there were also carpets made out of seeds on the ground in the plaza which are roped off so that they will not be disturbed. I don’t know how long it takes to complete these grand mosaics, but they are works of art that is worthy of appreciation. If you ever get a chance, The Day of the Dead celebration is really something to experience.

Please join me next week for the final part of this story where you will find out what I learnt out of this whole experience. See you then.

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Are You Ready to Give Up the Past?—Part I

Streets of San Miguel Allende

It’s been over two years since I last wrote on my blog and during this time I have gone into a self-imposed exile as the events of my life seemed to be trying to catch up with 2013, if in fact you believe that 2012 would be the end to an Old World and 2013 would be the beginning of a new one.

 

Well since 2012, I started physically losing pieces of my present. It came in the form of the passing of all my dogs, Mitzie, Snowy and Betty. And it didn’t just stop there. It continued with me making a gut wrenching decision to find new homes for a lot of my birds out of love for them and love for myself. It further continued with me losing my father in 2014 and at that point, it felt like I was lost at sea with no life raft to grab on to. These events were coming at me one after another and were the catalysts that propelled me into my Dark Night of the Soul. More appropriately, I would say that I was experiencing being in what my friend and mentor Lazaris calls the Dark Wood which is a metaphor for waking up one night and being in a place where you realize that “everything is wholly lost.” These literal losses were as if life was forcing me to change in ways that said that I could not go into this new reality if I was carrying around baggage from my past.

 

It is only now that I feel like putting pen to paper, so I would like to pick up from where I left off by taking you on a journey to a far away land where the events that were happening seemed to be paralleling my life.

 

My last post was on October 2, 2013 and at the end of that month I was invited by Sibyl English, the founder of Womanspeakpublications.com to give a speech along with other speakers at the Wellness and Spirituality Expo in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where the proceeds from the event would be donated to the Casa Organization to stop violence against women and children in San Miguel.

Brochure of Wellness & Spirituality Expo

Wellness and Spirituality Brochure

I hesitantly accepted as on one hand I was wildly excited but on the other hand, like most people, one of my greatest fears was public speaking.  However, I looked forward to my new adventure where I embarked upon a week-long tour of a most beautiful historic Colonial city that sits on a vortex about 7000 feet above sea-level where the hill-like streets are cobbled and lined on either side by long continuous walls painted mostly in yellow or burnt sienna and punctuated with doors made of wood or wrought iron depicting entrances to people’s houses or businesses. (you never know which) And even though the houses are connected and the streets are teeming with cars and people hustling and bustling; somehow behind those walls, you feel insulated as if nothing is happening outside.

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The town is filled with ex-pats who come there to retire, many of whom are artists who still live out their passion and sell their work. Behind those walls, the houses depict the Spanish architecture of entering a court yard before entering the main house.  Most of the houses are constructed on three levels with the communal areas leading out to an enclosed garden on the first level, the bedrooms on the second level and a roof top terrace overlooking the city on the third level. We stayed at a most charming hacienda with two fire places as being in a desert, the days would go into the seventies; however, the nights would dip into the forties at that time of the year. Outdoor had a beautiful covered patio with a spiral staircase leading to the roof. Adjoining the patio was the most enchanted garden with a water fountain.

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Sibyl took our group which comprised the speakers she had invited on a tour of the city, and the week was filled mostly with dining at her friend’s houses and at restaurants, as the town is literally filled with eating establishments as most of the retirees who live there spend much of their time socializing with each other. The town is so small that everyone knows everyone and there is no need really to have a car. People hail these green taxis that drive up and down the streets and pay three dollars each way to get where they are going. And it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to get anywhere in town.  We even had our personal taxi driver that we would call wherever we wanted to get around.

Out Taxi Driver, Martin

Our Taxi Driver, Martin

We visited La Gruta which is a hot springs where the water is captured in three outdoor pools with one of them adjoining a tunnel made out of stones that lead to an underground pool where you can stand under a water fall flowing out of a simple PVC pipe. Talk about being in a sauna as the temperature of the water is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. We spent the day relaxing in the water and having lunch in an outdoor garden.

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The trip would not be complete if we didn’t visit the Casa Organization where we were taken on a tour of the grounds. The center provides daycare for children and a place for mothers to find the support and the help they need to raise their families. We met some of the children and we learnt about the outreach programs to help educate the community about domestic violence.

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That inspired me even more as I gave my speech on Shame which is the foundation of my book, An Awakening, Mapping Your Dream, Vol. 1, as abuse in the form of domestic violence is one of the major ways that Shame is passed on. Giving the speech was also a time of growing and changing for me to push me out of my comfort zone of being an introvert and to step into the persona of being a public speaker, something that has give me much fear and trepidation as I previously mentioned. So one of the things I did before going on my trip was to spend some time dismantling these fears through some of the techniques which I teach in my book.

The highlight of my trip though was the Day of the Dead celebrations which were also happening that week. These events were a figurative expression of what I was experiencing which I will describe in detail in my next post.  I just want to close by saying that as I burn bridges to an old reality, I still feel disoriented like a turtle without its shell not having any concrete directions at this time; however,  I am so excited  as I build bridges to new reality, and most of all I want to say, “it feels good to be back.”