Laughing Skulls and Dancing Skeletons: What’s with All that Weird Day of the Dead Imagery Anyway?

Grinning skeletons wave to the crowds from balconies high above the street. Others, life-sized or even larger, are positioned at the entrances to stores, hotels and other public buildings. Made of nearly every material imaginable—wood, clay, metal, papier-mâché—they bear no trace of malice as they cheerily greet visitors. Scenes such as this are common during Day of the Dead festivities, and the preponderance of death images is one reason that those not familiar with the celebration may view it as morbid or macabre. But the holiday has inspired a rich folk art tradition; the skulls and skeletons are intended to be humorous and are created in recognition of the fragility of life.

[Read more...]

Do You Hear Them? Sacred Places…like maybe Monte Alban…Are Calling

Monte Alban Photo credit: Raymond Ostertag

Monte Albán—the sacred ceremonial center of the ancient Zapotecs in central Mexico.

I have been here numerous times with our Days of the Dead tours to Oaxaca, and yet, for me, it never loses its mystique…

Once the holy city of more than 30,000 Zapotecs, Monte Albán (mohn-teh ahl-bahn) is situated on a mountain some 1300 feet above the Oaxaca Valley. Although valley had been occupied since about 2000 BCE, there was a new influx of people between 800 and 500 BCE. This new group, now known as the Zapotecs, began the monumental task of leveling the top of the mountain where they would build Monte Albán.

[Read more...]

“Corny” Rituals Stand the Test of Time

I’m as corny as Kansas in August…

Lyrics from “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy”

from the musical South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein

It’s a favorite summertime ritual—steaming ears of sweet corn slathered with butter. Corn–or elote–is a popular treat in Mexico, too. And there the ritual is even more elaborate, involving your choice of toppings such as mayonnaise, chile powder, cotija cheese, and maybe a squeeze of lime. Here’s a recipe for the Mexican version of this tasty treat.

I suppose it’s fitting that the whole corn-on-the-cob ritual in Mexico should be more evolved than in the U.S. After all, they’ve been doing it a lot longer.

[Read more...]

A Consuming Passion for Chocolate

Twill make Old Women Young and Fresh; Create New Motions of the Flesh.

And cause them long for you know what, If they but taste of chocolate.

” A History of Nature and the Quality of Chocolate

James Wadworth (1768-1844)

In 1861, an Englishman by the name of Richard Cadbury first packaged chocolates in heart-shaped boxes for Valentine’s Day. It was an inspired idea.

After all, chocolate is the single most-craved food. According to food writer Tom Harte in his book, Stirring Words, close to one billion dollars are spent every year to purchase 40 million boxes of the sweet confections. Some 80% of Americans now identify Valentine’s Day as the #1 chocolate gift-giving occasion. But while the marketing ploys may be (relatively) new, the human passion for chocolate dates back much farther than the 1800s [Read more...]

Weighing In on the Virgin of Guadalupe and Other Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? I think most of us do. We must—why else would all those magazines keep offering cover stories—month after month—about the next “miracle diet?”  And why else would we keep buying them?

Obviously, we all know—logically—that the only way to truly lose weight is to expend more calories that we consume. It’s pretty basic math really. And again—logically—we must realize that if any of these miraculous diets actually worked in the long term, there would be no need publish a new version every month. Yet, hope springs eternal. When it comes to finding a way to get skinny without any real effort on our part, we’re all true believers, looking for the next miracle…

I was thinking about miracles this week, because the 12th of December is the Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe. A national holiday in Mexico that is bigger, for many, than Christmas or Easter, it celebrates the Patroness of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe. Hundreds of thousands will flock to Mexico City to visit the place where she first appeared. Some pilgrims will walk on their knees on the stone street leading to the Basilica, asking for a miracle or giving thanks for a petition that was granted. Others bring gifts, usually bouquets of flowers, and there will be a big fair with attractions, performances of music and dance, and vendors selling food and crafts. [Read more...]

Tired but Happy

Yes, I know we’ve moved on to a new topic this week, but if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to re-visit some of the ideas about gratitude that we talked about earlier. The reason is that over the Thanksgiving holiday I was given an excellent opportunity to practice what I was preaching with regard to the whole glass half empty or full question. And—especially because there’s been so much negative press lately about the violence in Mexico—I think this story is worth sharing.

As I mentioned in our post about the Day-After-Thanksgiving Turkey Soup, my daughter and I have a tradition of spending the holiday in Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), Mexico, camped on the beach with friends. This year, I was a little hesitant because of everything I’d heard, but decided that as long as we traveled during daylight hours, and on a day when a lot of Americans would also be making the trip, it would be okay.

So we headed out, only to have a blowout in the middle of nowhere (but still in the US), about two hours into our trip. That delayed us for a couple of hours while we waited for AAA, but they finally arrived and got us back on our way. [Read more...]

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...