Today is a very sad day for those human beings who have lost a loved one, and even more so for those who lost them just a few days ago, because it takes away the opportunity to even give space in their hearts to celebrate their life.
In commemoration of the Day of the Dead, I wanted to take a little walk around searching for information on how this event is being held in the different countries of Latin America, and this is what I found.
And I want, through this writing, to honor my late father, Don José Santos Ramírez Calero, who was a journalist warrior in Nicaragua. Wherever you are, my father, you will always be in my heart remembering that you were a light in the sky that continues to illuminate me after you left that day June 12, 2004, amidst pain and suffering for the cancer that killed you.
And just a day or so I take a chance to say a few words to dear Godfather who passed away a few years in Nicaragua, Mr. Evaristo Gómez.
And I offer my most sincere condolences to the family of two beloved Nicaraguan people whom I met here in San Francisco, who this week lost their loved ones by giving their soul to our Creator.
The first is the mother of my friend Sergio Iván Gutiérrez, Mrs. Gloria de los Angeles Berrios de Gutiérrez. She was 90 years of age. She died in the morning of Oct. 26 at her home in the Excelsior District of San Francisco surrounded by her family. Sergio could not attend due to forces beyond his will, and I imagine the pain he must be feeling unable to say goodbye to the woman who gave him the sincere self and love of a mother.
The second person to leave this world was the brother of Maria Elena Noguera, a lady dear and well-known in San Francisco for the rich dishes she prepared when she was the owner of the popular Red Baloon Restaurant on Mission Street.
Her brother, Orlando Antonio Noguera, who was 73 years old and suffering from extreme obesity, leaves his large family in pain for his departure.
And for them I say a prayer that their souls may be diluted in the fountain of life of the Most High.
Celebration of the Day of the Dead
As described in Notimérica’s writings, although Day of the Dead is normally related to Mexico, several Latin American countries commemorate this date, each in its own way.
The feast of this day comes from the indigenous cultures of the Aztecs, Mayas, Purepechas, Nahuas and Totonacas.
For 3000 years, they performed rituals in honor of their ancestors, rites that symbolized death and rebirth.
The Spanish conquerors of the fifteenth century were terrified by the practices of the natives on this day and, in their attempt to convert the Native Americans to Catholicism, changed the date of the celebration for the beginning of November. In this way, they coincided with the Catholic celebrations of the Day of All Saints and All Souls.
In Latin America, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1 and 2. The first is the day when souls return to children, and the second is the day they return to adults.
The most important moment on this day is when people go to the cemetery during the night and adorn the tombs, usually with an orange flower called ‘xempazuchitl’.
In the houses, an altar is built in memory of the ancestors, where photographs of them, food and drinks are arranged so that the deceased can remember the flavors of his past life.
Among some of the elements of folklore used only at this time of year, we highlight the sweet bread – known as ‘bread of death’ – skulls made of sugar or small skulls, which are given away to friends.
In this country, there is a belief that blessed souls come out of cemeteries and appear in some places. For this reason, many people, like in Mexico, put water and a photograph of the deceased in the homemade altars. Days before the celebration, they cleaned the tombs and decorate them with the flower of the dead, of yellow color, that only flowers at this time.
As in Mexico and Guatemala, altars are also dedicated to the deceased. Offerings of candles and flowers are made in the cemetery and, once the food and drink is prayed for the deceased, the family members enjoy a banquet in their honor.
In Venezuela, there are no major celebrations. Relatives take advantage of this day to visit the cemetery, clean the graves and bring flowers.
In this country, the Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 2 and, rather than remembering their ancestors, take advantage of this day to celebrate the lives of those who are still alive.
Nicaraguans attach great importance to this date and go further, celebrating this day in the cemetery during the night. They spend one night ‘sleeping’ with their dead, lying down beside the pantheons.
Honduras, Colombia and Costa Rica
In these three countries, believers go to cemeteries to bring offerings as a symbol of gratitude to the favors performed by the saints to their relatives.
Ecuadorian families celebrate this day by gathering around a typically traditional meal: bread guaguas – bread figures shaped like children – and purple dressing, a drink made with black corn flour, fruits such as blackberry, pineapple and naranjilla, and blueberries.
The Altar of the Dead
It is a fundamental element in the celebration of the Day of the Dead.
The bereaved have the belief that the spirit of their deceased returns from the world of the dead to live with the family that day, and thus to comfort them and to comfort them by the loss.
The altar is characterized by its cheerful colors and photographs of the deceased, as well as some dishes of his preference in life.
The Dead Bread
There are different theories about the elements that make up this delicious and special piece of Mexican bakery.
For example, some say that the bones made of mass refer to those of the deceased one who is remembered, others who represent the four cardinal points. Even in some places there is the belief that its ingredients are associated with the fruits of the earth and life.
It is to share with the deceased the bread, the salt, the fruits, patillos, the water and if they are adults, the wine. To offer is to be close to our dead to dialogue with his memory, with his life.
The offering is the reunion with a ritual that summons to the memory.
The Sugar Skulls
No Day of the Dead offering would be complete without the traditional sugar skullcuts. These sweet skulls are the product of a technique brought by the Spaniards.
One of its peculiarities is to carry in the upper part the name of the person to whom it is destined, since it is a form of reminder that the only thing that has the human being is death.