I’m an American who has lived in Mexico for twenty years, and during this time, I’ve had the unique opportunity to learn about another culture; one that is vibrant with color, history, warmth, and tradition, no matter what the news media might say.
I live in Northern Baja California, and the people here rely heavily on tourism as a vital source of their economic stability. When we hear negative news reports about Mexico, it hurts everyone who works so hard to earn a living, and survive especially during times of economic difficulty. I’m a strong, advocator for Mexico. The charm of it’s people, their hospitality, warmth, and traditions have captivated my heart.
This week, the Mexican people are preparing for their national holiday, Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead. The holiday’s name may sound a bit morbid. You might ask, “Why would they celebrate the dead?” Actually, it’s not a celebration of the dead, or death. It’s a celebration of life, as we remember those who are no longer with us, and we honor the lives they led.
This means, we honor who they were as human beings. We honor the goals they set for themselves, their achievements, their joys, and those special qualities about their character which made them unique individuals.
We also honor the great effort they made to learn the lessons life presented to them which perhaps at times were often hard to learn. We commemorate them for seeing it through with courage, and strength because as we all know, this life we’re currently living in, can at times be most difficult.
Halloween and Day of the Dead a Combination of the Two
Tracing the origins of Halloween back through the pages of history we arrive to the Festival of Samhain celebrated among the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland. It started being observed over 2000 years ago. Nov. 1st was considered the end of the summer. This was the time the herds out to pasture were gathered and returned to the farm, and for renewal of land tenures. It was also widely believed to be the time when the souls of the dead came back to visit their homes and families.
From pre Columbian times, El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Mexico, and other Latin countries. This is a very special ritual, since it is the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly and sad.
This is nothing further from the truth as Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual in which Mexicans happily, and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Much like when we go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative.
Traditionally, Mexican people construct altars in their homes in honor of their dearly departed family member. These altars are beautifully decorated with colored china paper, candles, a photo of the person the altar is for, and Marigolds which are well-known as the flower for this occasion. You will also find distinct trinkets which represent who this person was while living. Perhaps their favorite food, or specific hobbies are represented there as well.
Photography Weekend at the Ranch for Dia De Los Muertos
A photography workshop is scheduled for this coming weekend at the ranch. As the date happens to fall on October 31st, Halloween, and Nov. 1st, Dia de Los Muertos, we are offering a Memento Mortis photo session for those who wish to participate, and learn more about Mexican culture. The objective: to capture on film the meaning behind this most traditional holiday.
Each participant will have the opportunity to privately build an altar for their loved one who is no longer with them. As you see in the picture here, I’m gathering altar materials for this special activity.
Marigolds, candles, Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead bread), a special bread found in all Mexican bakeries only at this time of year, and bright-colored china paper cut outs, all with unique holiday designs. Our photographers will add any personal items they wish to use along with a photo to which the altar is dedicated.
Aside from the festivities, my husband Raul, and our cowboy hand, Gabriel will also prepare a horse stampede film shoot for our photograhers. Imagine twenty five horses in full flight, now how can any photographer not resist to capture the moment on film? In addition, we’ll ride horses, and make another visit to the Guadalupe Valley for a delicious gourmet lunch, and wine tasting!
I can feel it already. This weekend will surely arrive with many surprises for everyone, and I hope to learn something from our photo instructor too! I’ll post photos on Monday.
I’m off to the ranch once again. It’s time to disconnect, and reboot the battery for next week!
Happy Halloween/Dia de Los Muertos to all!