Días de los Muertos
The "Days of the Dead", Dias de los Muertos, is an autumnal Festival of remembrance, when Mexicans honor the memories of their ancestors and loved ones who have died. Festival rituals include tending and decorating gravesites, keeping vigil in candle-lit cemeteries, preparing and eating special foods, and setting up beautiful altars festooned with vibrantly colored marigolds and cockscomb flowers. . The mood is at once somber and exuberant, for in the midst of remembering loved ones and contemplating mortality, Mexicans embrace the beauty and joy of life.
The Festival is a striking example of the fusion of European and Indigenous traditions that is so much a part of Mexican culture. Celebrated from October 31st through November 2nd, the Días de los Muertos holiday is the result of the blending of the Celtic celebration of All Hallows Eve with the Catholic traditions of All Souls Day and All Saints Day, and their superimposition on the ancient Aztec harvest festival honoring the dead.
The Skeleton as Motif
The skeleton has been a prevalent motif in Mexican Folk Art since pre-Columbian times. In the tradition of the Mexican folk artist, I use the skeleton as a vehicle for humor and satire. And as a transplanted Mexican, I use the traditional imagery to illustrate the American Experience. But I also see the "bare bones" figure as a metaphor for stripping away layers to see beneath the superficial to the deeper meaning. I believe that acceptance and awareness of one's own mortality is essential to living one's life with mindfulness and gratitude. With that awareness, even the most mundane of moments becomes a gift to be savored and treasured.