Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day of the Dead

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal,
love leaves a memory no one can steal.
~ Irish headstone

What a wonderful adventure!  I spent a long weekend visiting Ana in Mexico!  :)

I started my trip in Minatitlan, visiting Ana at her apartment.  She attends the nearby university and lives with her niece, who attends high school in the same building.  We picked last weekend because it is a holiday weekend in Mexico called the Day of the Dead.  I always thought of it as being like our Halloween, because I've seen those decorated skeletons.  But it turns out it's more like our Memorial Day - in addition to celebrating their country's history, they visit the tombs and graves of their family with flowers and prayers.  

Ana's school had put up a number of displays in honor of the holiday, and on the first day of my trip some of her family (2 sisters, 2 nephews and another niece) came to town to spend the day with us and we all toured the school's displays.  

Each major display represented an era in Mexico's history.  

I'm sorry that I didn't take notes about the particulars - here is Ana in a cantina:

And Ana again, in front of a pyramid made of TOOTHPICKS!!!  Check it out!  Can you imagine the work that went into that?  

(Notice her school uniform?  For a university student!)  

Next, I was introduced to what was to be our main form of transportation for the rest of my trip - the back of a truck:  

We rode in the back of this truck for a couple of hours to get to the small rural community where most of Ana's family lives.  Once there, all of our transportation was either in a truck like this or by foot.  

On the trip there, we had a flat tire.  When the men went to fix it, I might have bragged a bit that I can change a tire by myself and my best time is 20 minutes.  They were amused and hinted (but nicely) that 20 minutes perhaps wasn't that great of a time.  However, at one point their truck rolled off the jack and hit the ground.  I commented mildly that it might take me 20 minutes, but my car never hit the ground...  That got a big laugh!  ;)

My favorite part of the visit to the family in the countryside was definitely the children - they were so beautiful and strong and happy and intelligent and curious and friendly...  I had brought small toys for everyone and they were generally a big hit.  

Here is one little boy with his new truck:  

I was only there for a couple of days, but I was amazed by how well siblings got along.  No bickering or fussing at each other.  When a 4 year old little brother wanted to "help" his big brother with a 200 piece Lego project, the older one only made a couple of mild comments about not losing any pieces...  I think that would have gone much differently with most of the children I know here in the States.  

Another thing that surprised me and made me feel good was seeing the fabric "scraps" that  I had been planning to throw away, but that Ana insisted on sending to her family, in use all over the place.  For example, the dress below was made out of one of my "scraps."  

The big event, the following day, was traveling to a cemetery to honor Ana's mother, who passed away around 11 years ago.  The women brought food and cleaning supplies for the tomb.  The men cleared the brush from the area with machetes and rakes.  The children played.  

The oldest son said a prayer and gave a short "sermon" of sorts.  Candles were lit.  Flower petals arranged in the sign of a cross.  Everyone ate empanadas and tamales.  And my contribution?  

A family photo.  :)

More pictures from my trip tomorrow...  

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