in common with most of the Americas, was colonised by the Spanish
from the 16th century onwards. This has led to a combination
of Indian beliefs with European Christian ideology. The best-known
example of this is the Day of the Dead, the Mexican equivalent
of All Souls day, which is celebrated on November 1st.
Day of the Dead
cultural roots have survived to the present day and have combined with
the Christian tradition, which we inherited from the Spanish Conquistadores.
The celebration of the Day of the Dead represents the fusion of two
races of people, Indian and European. The combination of these two cultures
has shaped the modern Mexican's attitude towards death. We learn resignation
through adversity and hardship, and our calmness gives us humour and
defiance in the face of death itself. At the same time we venerate the
memory of the dead and honour their souls. The tradition of making offerings
in recognition of loved ones who have died dates back to 3500 BC. For
the Mesoamerican people death is seen as a transition and life and death
are part of the same continuum. The Aztec, Toltec and Mayan peoples
used to bury their dead in earthenware pots full of food, beaded necklaces,
and golden jewellery so they would have everything they needed for their
The modern celebration concerns making an offering to the person who
though physically absent, is still living in our memory. An altar is
made in each home for the purpose of honouring the dead. Photographs
and possessions of the person who has died are placed on the altar along
with the other items. Marigolds, known to us a flor de muerto
(flower of the dead) are used to adorn the altar. Fruit, water, flowers
and scented candles are placed with their favourite food and we pray
for those who have died. The smell of the candle guides the spirits
home to their loved ones. Care must be taken not to blow out the candles
as they can only be stubbed out with the flower heads. If the candles
are accidentally blown out, the spirits leave.
skulls for sale on the day of the dead.
these ancient traditions are under attack from Halloween celebrations.
The Halloween celebration is an import from the United States, which
has nothing to do with our cultural or religious roots. However, in
spite of this threat, the celebration of the day of the dead is still
very important to the majority of Mexican people.
A typical altar
in Huaquechula, a town located near our project site in Atlixco.
In the centre
is a photograph of the deceased, surrounded by the things he enjoyed in
life. It's not unusual to see a bottle of tequila or a packet of cheap
Mexican cigarettes at the back of the altar. The altar is always surrounded
In November 2001 there were special altars dedicated to those who lost
their lives in the World Trade Center, many of whom were Mexican
special altar put up in November 2001 in Puebla's Casa de Cultura
paying tribute to the Mexican workers killed in the World Trade Centre
Mexico Child link trust works with abandoned and orphan children with
learning disability. Many of them are ex street
children who have been rescued from children's jails, reform schools
and other grim institutions in the Puebla area.