Hanging out with skeletons
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 02:10
The streets were filled with giant skulls. Skeletons with fancy hats gazed at us from balconies. And giant mosaics of twisting snakes stretched across the ground.
It was Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Mexico and the city streets had been invaded by witches, ghosts, and ghouls. It was impressive, but it was nothing compared to what I found at the cemetery.
Just outside the cemetery gates there was a carnival with rides, games, and food. My favorite was a shooting game in which hitting the right bulls-eye could earn you a performance by a life-sized robotic Michael Jackson or sparked up the Terminator who was armed with a water gun.
Inside the cemetery, hoards of people waded through elaborately decorated graves. There were sand paintings of religious figures, streamers of skeletal faces, and thousands of flickering candles. A mariachi band separated and wandered through the graves playing a game of instrumental Marco Polo, surrounding everyone with music.
The celebration was inescapable. It took over the entire city and I loved it. I loved the costumes, the enthusiasm, and the eerie feel that you get from a party in a cemetery.
But my favorite part of the holiday is that it is about family. Sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and friends all brought photos of their dearly departed as well as the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks to leave at the graves. It is a chance to revel in the memory of people they loved.
Death is inescapable no matter where you are in the world. Here many people refuse to speak of it; but the Day of the Dead casts death in a different light. It takes away some of the seriousness and the fear. I was inspired by the way people interacted with death in Mexico.
That is one of the great things about seeing other cultures. You can see a different perspective on something as universal as death and you might find that you like the other perspective better.