Omar Vidal invites us to remember those who have vanished in Mexico on this day as he reflects on the Day of the Dead customs.
Today, countless little orange and black-winged, spotted-white monarch butterflies symbolically bring our deceased back to life. Every year, our cherished migrants go home.
And now in Mexico, we commemorate Dia de Los Muertos. A day that serves as a ritual of nostalgia, eulogies, longing, pain, and joy for our departed loved ones; it serves as a reminder that death is an inevitable part of life.
Wherever we are on the earth, Mexicans come together to mourn and honour the deceased, including ancestors, heroes, friends, and loved ones. I doubt there is another day quite like this one. A day when everyone cries out “NO!” to oblivion and declares that dying is a living, ethereal presence rather than non-existence.
This is most likely an ill-advised but respectful portrait by a Colombian who long ago changed his nationality to Mexican; one who is now an orphan but will fondly remember his parents today at the altar of the dead – an altar decorated with cigarettes and aguardiente, small clay hens, champagne, bread, and coffee, some pictures of them as children, and a few marigolds to remember and honour them both.
It’s an unusual holiday to celebrate the dead. A mixture of pagan beliefs and native resistance that struggled but ultimately succeeded in hiding the Christian canon introduced to us by Spanish conquistadors from across the Atlantic Ocean in the 16th century. Indigenous groups like the Mexica, Mixtec, Texcocoans, Zapotec, and others adjust to the day while remaining devoted to their ancestors and the Christian calendar.
Our deceased loved ones now visit us, travel with us, and embrace us in the hereafter. The adults arrived today as the rear guard after the spirits of the “little dead,” the youngsters, came on November 1 as the advance party.
The children’s souls will be delighted to discover their miniature Xoloitzcuintle dogs and sugar skull humans when they arrive at the dinner.
The deceased return to view images of themselves taken while they were still alive and displayed on a beautiful altar in their honour. In these photographs, they can see themselves with the things they most enjoyed seeing, smelling, eating, and drinking when they were still alive among us.
Today, frankincense, Bursera copal, and honeyed flower scents fill our house. Today is the day of the flavorful Papel Picado, the salty calacas, and the water. The bread of the dead (pan de Muerto), which the deceased share with the living, is made from their skeletons.
The frozen gravestones of every cemetery in our nation are now tenderly covered by floral tributes, memorials, and altars.
Because they have gone via routes made of marigold petals, candles, and the copal elixir and sweet water lovingly prepared by their families, the souls of our dear pass through from the land of the dead to the province of the living today—and only today—to quench their thirst.
Our babies, kids, adults, and seniors can joyfully flutter from the realm of the dead to meet with their families in the land of the living today—and today alone. Today is the day of all souls when life and death are worshipped together.
It is a day of celebration and remembrance for the people we buried in their own pets, the only possessions we will take with us when we depart from this world.
Today, we choose memories to oblivion, happiness to emptiness and suffering, or the anguish brought on by the loss of our loved ones who have passed away forever. Let us consume the foods and drinks that our departed enjoyed the best.
But let’s not forget, even for a moment, that today is also a day to consider the grave problems facing our dear nation. A day to mourn, express our rage, and examine our own behaviour in the public eye. Witnessing the heinous violence that has wiped out hundreds of thousands of families nationwide for a long time.
Mexico today resembles a cemetery in and of itself. Numerous moms have diligently searched a maze of secret graves in an effort to locate the bodies—or at least some remains—of their missing or dead daughters and kids.
The terrible footage of a dog in Zacatecas dragging a human head while strolling on a sidewalk into the night that was broadcast in the media on October 27 is the antithesis of Da de Muertos and represents savagery. It depicts a nation in which every day is Da de Muertos, or the Day of the Disappeared; a nation that must rise up and confront the immoral forces obliterating our families and our rich customs.
In honour of the more than 3,309 children in Mexico who died between 2021 and 2022 while still under 17, according to the Network for Childhood Rights in Mexico.