Day of The Dead Celebrations in Michoacan (Part 2)

Animeecheri k’uinchekua / The Feast of the Souls

By Lic. Benjamin Lucas Juarez.

From the Purépecha standpoint, the celebration is an opportunity to live through an extraordinary time in which everyday life is left aside for a few days to make way for a particularly special moment where it’s possible to encounter the sacred, the collective togetherness, the rites and the elements that relate to the festive nature of the celebration. In this regard, Animeecheri k’uinchekua complies with this principle, but it is a ritual celebration, in which each person and element involved has a specific role to play in order to give that cheerful and solemn sense to the occasion.

Decorations are made with flowers, altars are raised, spaces are purified, offerings are given, food that each community regards as holiday food is prepared and shared: tamales( traditional Latin American dish made of masa which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating. Tamales can be further filled with meats, cheese, vegetables, chilies or any preparation according to taste, and both the filling and the cooking liquid may be seasoned), pozole (traditional stew with meat, usually pork,chicken, turkey, pork rinds,chili pepper and other seasonings and garnish), atole (traditional masa-based Mexican and Central American hot drink), hot chocolate, bread, etc.

It is often said that death is celebrated, but this can’t be farther from the truth, at least for the Purépecha people. The reason to celebrate is not death, but life continued or the “other life” and the opportunity for those in this world to gather and get together with those in the other world. That is the reason for the feast of souls that, although explained in a very elemental way, is a very complex process that takes place within the community.

This “encounter” with those who are no longer here but return for just one day a year to get together with their families in their towns and their homes is the central aspect of the elaborate ceremony. That is why the joy is shared among relatives and families gather to eat next to the ones who “return”, offering them the best available things, all of the elements that come into play in this occasion, such as flowers, food, fireworks, bread and the decorations themselves.

Thus, death makes sense when it’s no longer just that and it becomes our grandfather, our mother, our brother, our daughter and all those relatives that, although are dead physically, live in that other world and communicate life to their families thanks to the ritual.

Image credits: Mexican Sugar Skull

By Lic. Benjamin Lucas Juarez.

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