Day of the Dead
Music; Ambience: Mexican music
JM: During the first days of November, many Mexicans commune with the spirits of dead friends and relatives. It’s called the Day of the Dead, but it’s really a celebration of life. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.
JFU: “The Day of the Dead is a very very ancient festivity that was celebrated even before the time of the Aztecs. And it’s a festivity to celebrate life.”
JM: Juan Francisco Urrusti is a documentary filmmaker, who explains that in traditional Mexican belief, death is not final, just a temporary stop-over.
JFU: “They thought that once a year, all the dead could come back to the realm of the living, and share the food and everything with their relatives and with their friends. That’s the Day of the Dead, the time where the spirits were allowed to come back. It’s a happy occasion. It’s a way of saying, ‘Death, you cannot completely kill me. You may kill me temporarily, but I can come back as a spirit, or even as a person someday.'”
JM: During the Day of the Dead, many people build altars in their homes, where they’ll place mementos of the deceased, and they’ll head out to a local cemetery for a festive meal.
JFU: “It’s a very very lively day, and although people may cry at times, they may also laugh and tell jokes right by the grave about the dead. ‘Remember how he was so funny, or how he was so clumsy?’ And they will have the recollections and tell them just around the grave as part of the ceremony. So people become like pilgrims from one grave to another to visit all the loved ones. And to every grave they will take the kind of food the dead would like, and also the music he would like to listen to. If he liked the mariachis, well, we will take mariachis to his grave. The important thing is to please the dead. And to make them feel they’re not gone — they’re present.”
JM: Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. I’m Jim Metzner.