MEXICAN THANKSGIVING: “Day of the Dead”

 

A real taco, from scratch

A real taco, from scratch:  taste the love!

Yes, they may share a calendar date, but noDay of the Dead is not the rough equivalent of Hallowee’n, but rather, of Yankee Thanksgiving – it’s all about family and food. Halloween, the second most commercial holiday up north, is macabre, dark, excessively indulgent. Day of the Dead recognizes that survival has been based upon sacrifices made by ancestors, which is to say that it is centered on gratitude, giving of thanks. ¿What better way to express thanks than to infuse food with love for sharing with those so dear to us?

We had a close-up look at this celebration in a pueblo southeast of Merida on Saturday. Our housekeeper, Mundy, invited us to her parent’s home to partake of this harvest remembrance. It doesn’t get any more grounded and real than this. Her father, Desiderio, is a milpero, a real hardscrabble farmer, who grows corn, beans, squash, sweet potato, melons, and such, for the family. They raise their own meat and poultry. And they also have a little manufacturing business, making clothing and thus  providing employment for their neighbors. It was a great honor to be invited to this feast. And it was so delicious, being entirely prepared from scratch in their outdoor kitchen. (So basic: food, clothing, shelter, family, love.)

 

Tia Juanita cooking relleno negro, a turkey blackbean stew

Tia Juanita cooking relleno negro, a turkey blackbean stew

Like many such feasts, this one takes much advance preparation. But many hands make light work. The menu includes handmade tortillas, from their own corn; black beans blended with hardboiled eggs from the chicken pen; turkey; chicken; vegetable topping, called cortado (chop, in English); and Coke (along with a chocolate cake brought by us – the only items not made from scratch).

 

Mary takes a taco lesson

Her first lesson in tortilla making, from a maestra

The altar, and prayers of thanksgiving inviting the ancestors to come and dine.

The altar, and prayers of thanksgiving inviting the ancestors to come and dine. (Socorro, Mundy’s mom, at left.)

Food for the departed

Food for the departed

Desiderio stirs the drying corn, while Mundy's children watch

Desiderio stirs the drying corn, while Mundy’s children watch

The Maya teach their children they are made of corn (elote).

The Maya teach their children they are made of corn (elote).

Juanita makes pibes, a corn and meat pie, for baking underground.

Juanita makes pibes, a corn and meat pie, for baking underground.

This is a long-running feast, which lasts for several days. The next event will be baking the meat pies for tomorrow’s event. (These folks know how to celebrate!)

 

Mundy's sister, Aurelia, grooms her daughter's hair.

Mundy’s sister, Aurelia, grooms her daughter’s hair.

Mundy cleans up.

Mundy cleans up.

After a short walk, we were taken by bici-taxi into the village to see a local cenote.

After a short walk, we were taken by bici-taxi into the village to see a local cenote.

And now we are well-schooled on being grateful for our ancestors!

It reminds me a bit of a rock tune, which almost sounds like a hymn today.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “MEXICAN THANKSGIVING: “Day of the Dead”

    • Bravo, Peter. So, “who is my neighbor” becomes “who is my family member.” And “which is more important — my career, or my community?” (The priest didn’t want to become ritually “unclean” by touching someone who was bloodied.)

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