This past Tuesday (November 2nd) was the “Day of the Dead” in Mexican culture. This is still one of my favorite days to celebrate. I remember during my childhood days when my parents took my siblings and I to the cemetery to visit our grandmothers’ tomb. On November 2nd, Mexican cemeteries look like a big festival with families, yellow flowers, and a lot of sweet stuff to eat. Besides a few tears and prayers, they were happy family gatherings full of a celebration of life, with jokes, songs, poems, and memories. According to my Mexican traditions, adversity and death is something to embrace and an opportunity to be grateful for what we still have. We joke about being dead and have fun imagining how this world would be without our talents and rich presence. In the traditional poems named “Calaveras,” dedicated to those who are still alive, we let them to know how much we appreciate their presence in our lives.
Now, with no family, yellow flowers, or even tombs of my love ones near by, it was inevitable for me to look for new ways to celebrate death. I still was able to get the traditional bread in the store, make an altar for my school and joke about death with my best friend Maria Elena.
During the evening I hosted a family gathering (just I and myself) to reflect about my own life and how I am using the inherited wisdom from my ancestors.
I reflected about how many Carmens are dead now. For instance, I know that there was a Carmen who used to be naïve about sex and romantic relationships, a Carmen who used to dance while driving with loud music, a Carmen who used to sing aloud while cleaning home on Saturdays, a Carmen who used to believe everything the boyfriend said, a Carmen who used to believe in Christmas magic and Santa Claus as a child, a Carmen who used to cry every time she had a class presentation, a Carmen who hated rich people just because, a Carmen who angrily protested in the streets against war, government or any other social injustice, a Carmen who used to hate Sundays, a Carmen who was happily unaware of the impact of her powerful fire and burned so many people around, etc.
All of those Carmens are dead now. They enriched my life and made me who I am. I am glad that most of them are gone but I still miss and cry for some others. The point is how I can be alive and enjoy the Carmens I have and I wish not to have. How I can love and make peace with the part of me that still believes in marriage, wants to fall in love, wants to travel around the world, or cries for company. I know that if I do not listen to those parts and understand their needs they are in danger of dying with painful results. Moreover, how do I know what parts of me are alive and waiting for me to recognize them?
Anyhow, this family gathering was a successful new way of celebrating death and life. However, next time I would eat less bread . . . Maybe.
Happy Day of the Dead! And be sure you are fully alive . . . until the next post.