Day of The Dead Celebrations in Michoacan (Part 3)
By Lic. Benjamin Lucas Juarez.
Animeecheri k’uinchekua has its roots in the ancient past and the mythical notions about the relationship between gods, man and nature.
According to sources, in the Purépecha world, everything was determined by the will of their deity Curicaveri. Man and nature were created for Him and wars, conquered land, work, sacrifices, offerings, feasts, life and death were all dedicated to Him.
Whoever died in combat and doing other worthy actions could join Him and other gods in auanda, heaven for the Purépecha, or uarhicho, the place where those who die, “live”. Curicaveri, as chief god, had several representations on earth or echerindu, such as the sun, the fire, the obsidian rock and the eagle, among others. In those distant times, communication between gods, men, nature and the inhabitants of uarhicho was everyday. Man lived in harmony with nature; he carried out the will of the gods and talked to the grandparents and relatives that resided in the afterlife.
A lot of these notions about the divine and life and death survived despite the imposition of new order derived from the Spanish Conquest and evangelization. Understandable as it is, over the years, the pre-Hispanic celebrations were suppressed while others were strategically adapted and inserted in the liturgical calendar of the new religion. Thus, that everyday contact between man and gods and grandparents in uarhicho is now limited by liturgical calendar to the celebrations of All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd). In spite of that, it’s important to mention that this holiday goes far beyond the range of these two days for indigenous communities, in both the preparation and the making of this celebration; however, the new calendars are respected.
Much of the past had to be forgotten. However, despite multiple attacks of various kinds, surviving elements from ancient times still exist. Catholic concepts introduced to explain the meaning of the Christian faith, such as the concept of earth, heaven and hell, were not entirely contradictory with the Mesoamerican point of view, which made it possible to keep representations from the indigenous world. These elements give the celebration its symbolic strength and its remarkable aesthetics.
Therefore, it’s pertinent to note that animeecheri kúinchekua is not a recreation of a pre-Hispanic celebration as such, nor it is the Christian Catholic liturgy taught by the colonizers. It is a remake of ancient traditions and also the appropriation and reinterpretation of what was imposed during the centuries of colonial domination that each community, due to its customs, leads this celebration to the realm of the ritual.
So, although it may seem there are dissimilar elements in the offerings and altars in terms of origin and significance, these have been “purepechized” in order for them to be a part of a whole.
Image credits: Trip Advisor