Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Honoring the Dead

Latin countries, especially Mexico, have a beautiful way to honor the dead. Altars are set up for loved ones and things that they liked are placed on an altar along with photos, candles, flowers, and skulls/skeletons. Yesterday, as I drove up the driveway to the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center I was greeted by two large skeletons. Inside, I enjoyed looking at the different altars and sawdust carpets.
The traditional altars are relatives who have crossed over to the other side, but I was surprised to see altars for Mandela, pets, and Tolkien and the Middle Earth! The Marigold flower is the flower that represents the day of the dead and an arch filled with the orange paper flowers gave visitors a chance to write down the names of their deceased loved ones on a card and tie the card among the flowers.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is featured on many altars along with the favorite foods and drinks of the deceased persons.  I was amused to see a pet altar. Sharkey, Hyam, Tomato and two gerbils, Mousecop and Javante, had their own altar.

The four elements of nature are usually on the altar. Earth (food), Wind (hanging paper cutouts), Fire (candle flame), and Water (any vessel with water). A towel and soap are placed on the altar so the returning spirit can wash after the long journey. Beer, water, wine or Tequila are to quench the thirst of the spirits.
I enjoyed the altar with the many Monarch butterflies because of the symbolism of the gathering of souls
on the breath of the Monarch.

Even John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, had an altar. On the altar were his books, his picture, a pipe, Farmer Maggot's mushrooms (which didn't mean anything to me) a picture of a large dragon and one of his quotations: "Not all who wander are lost."

Alfombras, or sawdust carpets, in different designs are also in the exhibit. I found out that the carpets originated in Oaxaca where streets and cemeteries are decorated with the colored sawdust.

Robert Yancey is an artist who works in wood. He is know as the El Guero Santero (the blond sculpturer) from Memphis, Tennessee. I liked his relief carvings of Hispanic people.

As November first draws near, I am sure there will be many altars being set up to honor the dead.  Beginning on October 10 there will be a walking tour of  22 altars placed by the various merchants along Main Street in Longmont. More people will be able to enjoy the beautiful tradition of Dia de los Muertos.
"What a lovely way 
to say,
I remember you 
and love you too!"
E. Moscoso
October 1, 2014

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