Sayulita did it again- the year-long preparations for Dia de Los Muertos paid off! The town held a three day celebration filled with color, life and soulful tradition. As I walked through the town and into the plaza, I could feel the heartbeat of Sayulita when everyone came together. The altars this year were beyond beautiful and heartfelt. A particular altar stood out to me, the person's picture having been edited to show her in the clouds with wings. Another altar had beer, baseball mitts, a baseball bat and a Los Jaibos (our local Sayulita team) baseball jersey. It made me sad and at the same time so grateful to be experiencing such a beautiful tradition, the altars made with such detail and care, planned for so long in advance. Actually spending time with your passed loved ones strikes me as such an incredible way of honoring them and the life they had.
Mexico has a special relationship to death, one that started long before the colonization of Spain. The Aztecs worshiped a Queen of the Underworld named Mictēcacihuātl, who watched over the bones of the dead. The Aztecs believed that the dead make a journey descending the nine levels of Chicunamictlan, their underworld. They didn’t see death negatively, but rather as an essential part of the cycle of life. That is why they would make ofrendas or altars, to assist the deceased further on their journey into their afterlife.
Over the centuries and with the arrival of Catholicism, their ceremonies and traditions merged with others like Samhain or All Hallows Eve, eventually becoming what we now call Day of The Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos. Although there are some things that feel familiar about Dia de Los Muertos, it is nothing like the Western world's Halloween. Mexico's tradition is far from spooky, and meant to honor and celebrate life including its inevitable end. Everything you see during these days is deeply symbolic and sacred, including the beautiful orange and yellow cempasuchil that are used everywhere on the altars. These flowers represented life and death to the Mexicas, a Nahuatl-speaking people of the Valley of Mexico who were the rulers of the Mexica Empire.
The Calavera Catrina is surprisingly modern, and was born out of the Mexican Revolution. She first appeared in 1910 as a sketch by the Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada and was more of a political statement than a way to honor Dia de Los Muertos. She was dressed elegantly as the upper class mimicking European fashion, and her bones represented that underneath it all we are all the same. Soon after, infamous artist Diego Rivera included her in one of his enormous murals and her lore expanded from there.
Now the Catrina is deeply ingrained as a part Dia de Los Muertos and has taken on many different symbolisms and meanings, representing this tradition through and through. You can see people of all ages dressed as Catrinas and decorating their hair with cempasuchil flower crowns. She is made larger than life and almost like a guardian and guide to the dead. A beautiful merge of the modern with the ancient, Catrinas are an incredible representation of the rich culture Mexico has to offer.
This year's winner of the Catrina contest was Yennyfer Villalvazo with her incredible costume decorated with corn, a beautiful detail as corn was considered a sacred food to the indigenous in Mexico and is still widely used to this day. We are so happy and honored to be able to support this tradition and donate the contest money this year!
Thank you all for this beautiful festival and see you next year!