Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead, Oct. 15 – Nov. 15

The Instituto Espanol – Spanish Institute – is currently decorated for Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead. This is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in Mexico and in the US/Canada by Mexican-Americans. Family and friends gather to pray for and remember those who have died, all in the spirit of celebration.

Tradition includes building of altars to honor the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, as well as visiting graves with these as gifts. It is hoped that the beloved dead hear the prayers and the stories told about them.

At the landing point, you see a beautiful piece of artwork on the ground – two colorful sugar skulls, which to me are the most known symbol of this holiday. Sugar skulls are labor intensive and made in very small batches in the homes of sugar skull makers over a period of months. These wonderful artisans are disappearing as fabricated and imported candy skulls take their place.


A little further along the path of orange mariposas (cempasúchitl) and off to the the right is a table containing Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead), and hot chocolate. Pan de Muerto is a sweet bread flavored with anise, orange peel and orange glaze, often decorated with extra dough in the shape of bones, and made exclusively for this celebration.


If you continue on the path, you will come to a intersection – take a left for now and go down the steps of the next building. Go down all the way and you will find artwork related to the Day of the Dead by Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Jose Guadalupe Posada, as well as pictures of people actually celebrating the holiday.


An example of what an altar for this occasion might look like is also here, along with a notecard containing instructions how to build your own!


After you have enjoyed the art and decorations, go back up to the path and follow it in the other direction to get to a graveyard for a bit of black humour in the form of the decorated graves of the Owner and Staff of the Spanish Institute.  Upon exiting here, you will find yourself at the last stop – a market place with stalls, selling artwork, food, clothing, decorative items, and more.


The decorations are colorful and abundant, giving you the feel for the atmosphere of celebration that is typical for this holiday – joy and happiness seem to be prevalent.

Having finished the tour given to me by Malu Zhao, who has set up this wonderful exhibit, I have come to the conclusion that this is a different way to look at death and the dead, and maybe not such a bad way, at that.

SURL: Instituto Espanol – Spanish Institute

Sources:
Notecards by Malu Zhao, provided at the exhibit
Pictures by Blackhawk60 Sikorsky
http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/
http://www.elpayaso.com/pandem.htm

2 comments

  1. Our thanks to Prim Perfect and to rennierenfort for a great write-up. Thanks also to Malu Zhao and Ikker Beck for a bang up job with the 2010 Day of the Dead presentation. I am honored that Instituto Espanol is being recognized for our valuable cultural contributions to the Second Life community.

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