Day of the Dead 7:42 p.m. 2003-11-02

Current Listening: Crazy in Alabama by Mark Childress
Current Reading: Julie by Jean Craighead George
Recipe of the Day: Recipes from The Dinner Doctor by Anne Byrn

Today, I got up and wrote another chapter for my NaNoWriMo novel, A Year in Angers To read it, click on the icon above! I was planning on writing more tonight, but I am sleepy, so I may have to wait until tomorrow!

I went with my husband and my mother to two Dia de Los Muertos celebrations held in Atlanta today. If you don't know what Dia de Los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is, I have some information from Arizona

More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death.

It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate.

A ritual known today as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

The ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States, including the Valley.

Today, people don wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend, according to Mary J. Adrade, who has written three books on the ritual.

To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.

In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones.

In the United States and in Mexico's larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar.

"We honor them by transforming the room into an altar," Guerrero said. "We offer incense, flowers. We play their favorite music, make their favorite food."

We first went to the Woodruff Arts Center in downtown Atlanta. There was a celebration sponsored by Diaz Foods - there were a lot of food booths there. We sampled canned menudo and posole (soups), and shared an order of barbacoa tacos (VERY good!). I got a great deal on tin skeletons ($2.50 each! - they are about a foot long!) and bought a festival t-shirt for $5.00.

We went inside the lobby of the Woodruff Arts Center to view the altars made by civic groups and school Spanish clubs. There were altars to Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, and, of course to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as well as to family friends and pets. There was even an altar to Mr. Rogers!

The altars were not traditional ones, like that of the link above. To see a more contemporary altar, with a link on how to build one yourself, go here. I am fascinated with this tradition.

At the Atlanta History Center, there was a celebration sponsored by the Mexican Consulate. There was a lovely performance going on by a rondailla (sort of a glee club) from the University of Queretaro. They played encore after encore, with the women in the audience clamoring for more songs, and singing along with them!

The altars here were large, and accompanied by docents - some in costume. There was one woman in a black and white costume and hat with a skull mask. These altars were very beautiful, and seemed to represent different states of Mexico. Either that, or they were made by people from those states. There was also a costume exhibit and boothes selling Mexican wares.

After the festivities, we went back to my mother's house and waited an hour before going out to eat. We ate at Sala, a Cuban restaurant near her house. Mom and I had seafood paella, and my husband had the ropa vieja, a beef stew dish. We also had fried yucca for an appetizer, and I had a margarita. For dessert, we went to J. Ripples, a gelato place next door. It was good.

So, back to school tomorrow. I am going to get my stuff ready and get to bed early, to make sure I am rested up for work tomorrow. I can't wait to wear my new shirts from Costco this week!

Stay tuned for more of my novel - I don't know if I will write MORE in this journal (as procrastination!) or LESS (as I write more on my story!). Either way, there will be something to read. My good friend, La Petite Mouche is participating as well: check out her novel, She Went to Paris!

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