Lifestyles

October 24, 2013

The Valley Celebrates Life

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Written by: Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
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Eric Luplow

The Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, as it is commonly referred to in English, is an event “imported” from Mexico whose popularity has soared in the past decade. It is held every November 2,nd along with the Catholic celebrations of All Souls Day.

Growing up in Northern Mexico and Southern Texas, I do not recall ever building an altar or attending any candlelight vigils at the cemetery. All I remember is that I  attended mass, and visited  the cemetery bringing flowers to my deceased loved ones.  Never did I see an altar at the cemetery nor at anybody’s home. It was not until a few years ago when I met writer Mary Andrade, and through my involvement with the Harlingen Arts and Heritage Museum, that I began to appreciate this unique “celebration”.

The practice of honoring the dead dates back to pre-colonial Mexico when the natives believed the souls of their  loved ones would pay a visit once a year. Altars were the way to welcome them and guide them, every item has a meaning; candlelight, flowers, photographs and special objects belonging to the deceased.  Too many details to mention here but I highly recommend reading about it, and highly recommend Mary Andrade’s books. Why not even consider building and decorating a small altar at home?

One of the things that I find the most gratifying about building an altar is that the experience is very liberating. The time spent decorating, and placing special items that hold so many dear, and sometimes painful memories,  eases the pain of loss, the emptiness, and the sadness. But  most memories will bring you joy.  Being able to introduce your loved one to others, and talking about his or her life, is something that should be practiced and cherished, even if only once a year.

The most striking piece of information I have stumbled on was in an article, I can’t remember who wrote it or where was it published, but I know I will never forget it.  It said that certain native people of Mexico believe that we go through three deaths; the first one is when we expire, the second one is when we are buried, and the third one is when we are forgotten. Once we are completely forgotten, we are gone.

Once, a relative of mine from Missoula, Montana, was visiting the Rio Grande Valley, I don’t recall why, but we started conversing about the Dia de los Muertos. It was around the time when very few related events were held in the Valley but I was all excited wanting to tell her all about it.  To my surprise, she already knew all about it because people in Missoula have been “celebrating” Dia de los Muertos for some time now, they even have a parade among several other activities.  Many cities of the United States currrently observe this unique holiday.

Don’t miss the wonderful celebrations around the Valley, I highly recommend the reception held at the Harlingen Arts & Heritage Museum every year, this year’s date is Thursday October 31, 2013 at 6:00 pm. There is live music, food and drinks and a special appearance by La Catrina. The Weslaco Museum is having its celebration on November 2nd in the evening with an art exhibit by local artists.

Several other museums in the Rio Grande Valley host altar exhibits and events. Don’t miss out on this unique celebration; let’s celebrate and honor the lives of those who are no longer with us.  I invite you to post your comments about those very special people who are gone.

The featured photograph for this article is of the Dia de Los Muertos Mural by Eric Luplow, shown here signing the mural. The Mural is located in downtown Harlingen.

 

To learn about Mary Andrade’s books please log on to  http://www.dayofthedead.com/

 

 

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About the Author

Nydia O Tapia - Gonzales
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts,nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most important, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .




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