|LuVerne & Goldie Scott|
Throughout the city, the commercial and traditional trappings of Día de los Muertos filled courtyards and store shelves with skeletons and skulls. Ornate sand paintings of saints or haunting apparitions spilled across church plazas. Elaborate altars erected by community groups filled museums, plazas, and market places with colorful offerings of flowers and foods, enticing ancestors back to earth to feast on ingredients of an abundant, vibrant life--tamales, yeasty breads, bananas, chocolates, and perhaps a sip of mescal.
In Oaxaca's sprawling central cemetery, I held hands with a Oaxacan friend in the dark of evening to avoid being separated in the surge of families, tourists, and face-painted youths crowded into the jumbled chaos between monuments. Candlelight spilled from niches in the crypt-lined walls and Mozart echoed through the air. Ensemble groups in each corner of the graveyard alternated in delivering musical offerings to lift the spirits of listeners on either side of the graves.
The musicians were students at an annual symposium dedicated to encouraging and supporting accomplished young players from throughout the state of Oaxaca. A week of workshops and lessons by master classical performers from around the world included opportunities for students to fill the public spaces of Oaxaca City--cemeteries, church courtyards, museums, even the central market--with multiple concerts daily. The educational program coincided this year with Día de los Muertos for an auspicious juncture of death and lively harmony.
The following day, I strolled to a small, community cemetery where trucks piled with marigolds lined adjoining streets. This traditional Día de los Muertos bloom is considered a symbol of death and reverence. In the warm sunshine of noon, families carried buckets of water and utility brooms to wash the tombs. They cut bouquets, lit candles and took photos of decorated graves. Día de los Muertos brought the graveyard to life. More like Memorial Day than Halloween in terms of intent--to remember, to honor, to reconnect with what endures.
|Xochilmilco Cemetery, November 2|
"No one really dies as long as you still think about them," observed an article I read about Día de los Muertos. I cradled that thought as I returned from Oaxaca, immersed in the enduring presence of my mother and father, and a growing number of friends no longer present in body, but very much alive in my dreams, desires, and decisions. It pleases me to imagine that in this way--they and I together--we keep one another alive.
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