El Día de los Muertos – meaning of the death in Mexico

I used to wonder about el Día de los Muertos each time around Halloween. I saw party announcements, but never knew exactly what is going to happen there. Would it be a rite, a big dance feast with Mexican music, would I have to go to the cemetery for this event?IMG-20151028-WA0002

Last Halloween my unanswered questions about this Mexican tradition got resolved, when I visited the concert of the singer, Valeria Tapia, and guitarist, Amado Angulo. Not as a usual concert with uninterrupted interpretation of songs, this concert was set to an unexpected setting. On the stage you could see a colorful shrine with different objects on it. The first one to appear on stage was a masked lady to represent silently the death throughout the concert . A presenter, who appeared on the stage at the same time with the musicians, helped to understand the background of the songs and traditions.

El Día de los Muertos and the traditional context include many details, depending on the region. It is for sure, as Valeria said, not a drinking festivity. What differs from region to region in Mexico is the time when it is celebrated. Some celebrate not only for a day, but a whole week, starting in the beginning of October, but latest on November 2. What is crucial to understand the concept of el Día de los Muertos is that death in Aztec cultures is not a life event, that took the dead person eternally away from his/her family. Family members stay in touch with their dead relatives and communicate to them on that day by preparing their favorite meal and praying for them. The dead is something the Aztecs were not afraid of. Their vision is: it will happen to us anyway. Therefore they call death with many different words.

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One of the death’s name is La Llorona, which was a part of the performance, and is a good example that the death has a soul in terms of a person being able to talk to it. The below excerpt of the lyrics shows, that the person talking to the death considers the death even a better stage of life than the life itself:

[...]Cuando mueven el viento,
parece que estan llorando.
Llévame al río,tápame con tu reboso
porque me muero del frío,
azul celeste,
te quiero mas que a mi vida.
[...]When the wind blows,
it seems that someone cries
Please take me to the river
and cover me with your waves
because I am dying from the cold.
Light blue,
I love you more than my life.*

 

Another song of this evening Las simples cosas reveals that when we die, we still do come back. The death is just an absent state and we always return. Only the simple things around us are not eternal. This means that a life of a person is eternal, be it life itself or during the “absence”.

 

[...]Uno vuelve siempre
a los viejos sitios
dónde amo la vida.
Entonces parece
como están de ausentes
las cosas queridas.
Por eso, muchacho,
no partas ahora
soñando el regreso.
Que el amor es simple
y a las simples cosas
las devora el tiempo
[…] One always comes back
to the old places
where I love life.
So it seems
as if they are absent
the loved things.
Therefore, boy,
don’t go now
dreaming of your return.
Love is simple
and the simple things
devour when time passes.*

 

* Please note, all translations are made by the author and may include mistakes. Generally, the translation is based on the context.