Day of the Dead (ir a la versión en español aquí)
This is not a story about zombies, in case you were wondering.
The transition between life and death has always fascinated the human beings throughout history. Since the beginning of time, several cultures have speculated, theorized, pondered, guessed and feared about what lies beyond life. These cultures developed a set of beliefs about the subject of death, those beliefs in turn have created traditions and rythes in an effort to either revere, honor, scare or make fun of death.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead celebration takes place during the 1st and 2nd of November every year. The first day of the month is to remember the children that have passed away and the next day is for remembering and for (lacking a better term) "spending time" with more senior loved ones that have also departed our material world and headed into the unknown. These couple of days become the perfect stage for all emotions related to death to arise, the atmosphere becomes intoxicating and the surreal takes over normal, regular, boring life...especially at night. It is not unusual to see a person laughing about nothing in particular and then, just moments later watch them break down in tears while remembering a particular loved one that has recently departed our world, then literally moments later the person is toasting them, laughing again this time about a particular funny anecdote, eating and enjoying a particular kind of food that person used to love.
All in all it's a time when we allow ourselves to think about death and not feel bad, pessimistic or fatalistic about it. It's a time to remember good times gone by while at the same time having and creating a good time right then and there. It's a time to cry about loved ones who have died, wishing we could have said something else, maybe a heart-felt goodbye before the unexpected end. It's a time to relate to the dead what life is like now they are not here with us, to tell them about the day to day problems, the upcoming events, to acknowledge that they are gone but at the same time knowing deep down that to us, the ones who got left behind, they are never truly gone. They are still here, we miss them frequently as we loved them so much but somehow one way or another we keep finding the strength to carry on and do the things that need to get done.
On the other hand, these couple of days are a time for laughing about nothing, to come up with silly little poems (called "calaveritas") that tell the story of how someone we know just couldn't escape death, and we refer to her (death) as familiarly as possilbe, after all she is always around and one day she will come to take us away too. During these days we enjoy good food ("pan de muerto", anyone?) and drink, good music and good stories, people in costumes are all around so who can say for sure if we are seeing a living person or an incarnated ghost? Definately not me, but at the end of the day it makes no difference since we are all just out to have a great time, we are just interested in honoring the dead, cherishing the living and not taking life or death too seriously for a little while.
As you can imagine with all this going on it's just logical to sit down and ponder about one's path in life and to give a little thought about those legendary questions that often remain unanswered: "where do I come from?", "who am I?", "what am I here to do?", "who drank my last beer?"...oh well as the saying goes, "when in doubt, take pictures" and I just happened to be around crazy-great photographers at that particular moment that taught me a lot about seeking, looking and capturing a great photo. Honestly, if you ever want to take your photography skill to the next level, find a teacher and a workshop you feel passionate about.
If you want to know more about my personal experience during those days in 2008 you can:
a) Read the Blog called "Magic"
b) Go to the photo gallery
c) Go back to Conceptual Works page
Oh! and just so you know, "Pan de Muerto" is not made with corpses, that's soilent green.