Patzcuaro

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

Pan de Muerto: sustenance for Día de los Muertos

We don't need to be convinced that food plays a central role in people's lives and cultures that goes way beyond the basic need for sustenance. But if we did need proof, Mexico's Day of the Dead observances would be Exhibit A. On November 1, families decorate the graves of their lost loved ones with marigold flowers. It's a custom, several women told us, that brings them close to their loved ones and makes them feel contento (content). The bright orange flowers almost cover the gravestones and their pungent aroma fills the air. We've really never seen anything else quite like it. As we looked more closely, we realized that families also leave personal belongings and mementos that their loved ones had enjoyed in life....Read More
An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

An appetite for Day of the Dead in Michoacán

Thanks to the many Mexican families who have settled in the United States, we have had a good introduction to Day of the Dead observances. In recent years, we've even caught some stateside glimpses of both the pageantry and the solemnity of the occasion. Last fall we decided to go to the roots of this holiday that blends All Souls' and All Saints' days in the Christian calendar with pre-Columbian ceremonies connecting the worlds of the living and the dead. The lakeside mountain community of Pátzcuaro is the most celebrated spot in Mexico for Day of the Dead ceremonies. It is one of what the Mexicans call the pueblas mágicas (magic towns). We joined the throngs who flocked there at the end of October and...Read More
In Mexico, even the dead enjoy a feast

In Mexico, even the dead enjoy a feast

We recently returned from Mexico, where we joined the observations of the Day of the Dead in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Wherever we went, the air was filled with the vaguely pungent, slightly rank smell of marigolds. Farmers filled the beds of their pickup trucks to lug vast heaps of flowers to market. Native to central Mexico, "cempasuchitl" (the Nahuatl name for marigolds) are abundant in the late October rainy season. By tradition, their bright color represents the sun lighting the way for souls to return on the Day of the Dead. Their aroma also draws the deceased back to the world of the living. Marigolds abound in public spaces and private homes, where people use them to brighten the ofrendas so central to the celebration of...Read More