Monday, November 2, 2015

A Bit of Dia de los Muertos

Our first Day of the Dead holiday in Panajachel, Guatemala. We were pretty exhausted from our Halloween party the night before, plus tearing down the decorations at the bar in the morning, but we were determined to go see what Dia de los Muertos was like.

We were at Gringos Locos taking down decorations when this procession came down the street. (Sorry for the swearingin the video!) We saw them later that day on our way back from the cemetery too. They must have walked for hours!

In the afternoon, we splurged and got a tuk-tuk to the cemetery, which is across the river in Panajachel. (A tuk-tuk ride costs a whole Q5 a person in-town, so that was about $1.70 Canadian for both of us.) The road near the cemetery was blocked off, as expected, so we walked in.

There were vendors on the street as we walked in. We were a bit hungry so we tried a chicharrine. We had seen these a few times before but decided today was the day to buy one. That process in itself was mildly humourous, as the vendor told us the price was Q2 when I asked, yet the little boy who had just bought one for Q1 starting asking the vendor (in Spanish) why he got his for 1 when we had to pay 2.  Of course, they didn't know that I got the gist of what they were saying! :) It was no matter. One more Q is less than a quarter.
I believe this is called a chicharrine. They taste kinda like bacon chips. Served with ketchup and mayo.
I think they are actually fried pork skins but this type are so processed, it's hard to tell.
The cemetery road in Jucanya. A lot of the same vendors were here as were at the fair.
Pizza, candies, BBQ, and traditional sweets.
I've done a blog post on the cemetery before, so I didn't take too many pictures this time around. Besides, it felt a little disrespectful. People were actually very friendly and most weren't sad. They were socializing with their grave-neighbours and chatting with friends. There was even a beer booth!
Water for flowers and washing. It was advertised as "free".
They also had free ladders for people to reach the higher graves.
The cemetery was very busy.
It is a day for families to come together and remember those they've lost.

Showing some interesting customs of Dia de los Muertos. 
Marigolds are the official flower of mourning, but many other flowers were placed, as well as grasses strewn around. The relatives light candles to represent fire, and leave offerings of food.
Repainting the tombs is a common practice on this day.
A man walks with his two girls through the cemetery.
An older set of tombs, empty. 
Flowers and grass. This family is well loved. 
I was very quiet and respectful as I walked through the cemetery. I only took a few photos, and those from a distance. I felt comforted by the people gathered there as they talked and worked and even laughed. They hugged old friends and called out to each other across the spaces. 
But there was one moment that took my breath away and made me fully understand the unique combination of celebration and despair that is part of Dia de los Muertos.

I was walking along the back wall and noticed a young woman walking across an aisle. A small boy, perhaps two, was holding her hand. She paused just ahead of me, looking up at the tombs stacked above us. Then she sat down on the ground, put her face in her hands, and wept. The boy, confused, touched her arm and said, "Mama, Mama." She raised one hand to touch his shoulder but continued crying. I tiptoed past, choking back my own tears. 

Here is a video a friend shared with me on Facebook that elegantly and wordlessly visualizes Dia de los Muertos. Please take a few minutes to watch. 

After we left the cemetery, we strolled through the market, then down to the waterfront for some lunch. We came home and relaxed the rest of day, snacking on leftover candy from Halloween and doing a bit of cleaning. A simple, peaceful day. Next year, I'd like to go see the Giant Kite Festival in Sumpango and perhaps REALLY splurge and order some fiambre. :)
The market in Panajachel on Dia de los Muertos with flowers and bags of grass for sale.

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