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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

A Classic Mexican Celebration

The Days of the Dead

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Primarily a Roman Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox holy day, November 1, All Saints Day, and November 2, All Souls Day are commemorated in the United States as days of prayer for deceased souls. Generally a dignified and solemn day, we as a culture describe the passing of loved ones in shushed tones. We say they have 'gone to the other side' or 'passed on' and in mentioning this transformative state of those whom we have lost through death, we are expected to bow our heads, speak softly out of respect, and bear a compassionate, somewhat apologetic expression.

Not in Mexico!

They mourn the passing of family members and friends with food, drink, dancing, humor and revelry.

 The Day of the Dead is observed throughout Mexico as a tribute to those who have died, and lively reunions gather at family burial plots.

 

Intricate tissue paper cut-outs called papel picado are draped over 'offering' tables. Notice the wash basin and towel in the bottom right of this photo. This is so the visiting souls can freshen up from their long journey before enjoying the food provided for them.

Here in Chapala, the entire street of Cinco de Mayo is blocked off to traffic and commemorative altars for the departed are set up. House after house show colorful adornments and the preparation of special foods that are laid out for those who have died. Marigold flowers, thought to represent the rays of the sun and linked with life, are placed strategically so the deceased will not lose their place in the universe, when they come to visit.

 

These young girls are dressed like a Catrina, one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Scholars trace the origins of the modern holiday to an Aztec festival dedicated to a goddess called Mictecacihuatl (pronounced meek-tay-cah-SEE-wah-tl) or The Lady of The Dead.

Catrina dolls can be purchased in shops all over Mexico and are highly prized by natives and tourists alike for their artistic detail.

 

Death is a topic largely avoided in the USA, but Mexico's Day of the Dead is rare mix of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic rituals. The holiday is an illustration of the synthesis of pre-Hispanic and Spanish cultures that has come to define this country and its people.

 

Candles, decorations made from rice, best-loved photos, memorabilia, flowers and even the favorite drink of the deceased are all laid out to encourage souls to visit on this special night.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull, called calavera. Often you will see people dress up with their faces painted to look like skulls, just like the person to the left in this photo. Notice the marigolds in patterns to help the deceased find their way.

 

Children dressed up as skeletons are a common sight on this holiday, and they have great fun participating in the celebrations.

November 1 is set aside for remembrance of infants and children who have died, often referred to as angelitos (little angels). It is hard not to get the chills or become emotional when seeing displays made for these little ones.

 

Those who have died as adults are honored November 2.

As you can see in this photo, the family above has lost several members. Food is laid out and the souls 'eat' the essence leaving the substance behind. Although believed now to be void of all nutritional value, the living will eat the fruits and prepared meals later on.
 

This is a representation of a Mexican warrior from Mexico's War of Independence. Catrinas are skeleton dolls made in both male and female form.

 

These larger-than-life paper-mache warrior skeletons are done in remarkable detail.

 

A female Catrina representing the Mexican Revolution.

Death held a significant place in the rituals of the ancient Aztecs. For example, it was considered a blessing to die in childbirth, battle or human sacrifice, for these assured the victim a desirable destination in the afterlife.

 

This deceased family member was obviously a fisherman. An elaborate set up to represent his livelihood as a man of the waters has been constructed, complete with boat, fishing net, sail and the painted surf in the background. Notice the name 'Lupe' is written out in marigolds on the boat's hull.

The figure in the boat wears some favored clothing of the one who has died, a basket of fruit is waiting for him on his return and the marigolds guide his way into the boat.

 

A group memorial.

Many photos commemorating the lives lived are on display here. Notice the crucifix on the table and the picture of the Virgin Mary at the top of the altar. Again, you can easily see the blend of the Aztec custom with the Roman Catholic beliefs.

 

These young adults, dressed fully for the occasion, are practicing mime. Slowly and deliberately they will change their positions and hold them indefinitely, then change them again.

The young man is playing cards and has a pack of cigarettes on the table. There are several brands of tequila (the National Drink), a couple of bottles of Coca-Cola and some chips on a plate. The table and refreshments are sponsored by a local restaurant El Zapote.

The manner in which the Mexicans celebrate the passing of their loved ones, with humor, love and theater creates a sort of cathartic experience. A dance with Death, instead of avoiding Him all together.

For more information or to view different stories of places in Mexico click here

 

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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