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Day of the Dead Festivities Begin in Indigenous Communities

By: Staff | Real Acapulco News - 30 October, 2010

(Acapulco, JG 30 October) In the mountains above Acapulco, the celebration of the Day of the Dead has already begun. Three native groups – the Na Savi, the Me’phaa and the Nahuas – have attended their respective “Meeting with Souls of Those Who Have Died.”

In Tlaquilzinapa the Nahuas started out at El Calvario, a representation of the crucifixion scene, where a rosary was said and songs sung by families of the departed. “Day of the Dead traditions are very ancient,” said Ofelio Aguilar, chanter and spiritual leader of the small village, “so at midnight on October 27 we meet in the church [after praying at El Calvario] to receive them. But the chanting actually starts on the 24th with praise songs that speak of the dead.” Most of the people congregating in church on the 27th are the women, who come with baskets under their arms, containing offerings of bread, jícama, tamales, mandarins and oranges, squash, and corn. An essential part of receiving the dead is the candle, the flowers and the copal (a local aromatic resin) or incense. The candle is to “light the way of family members who have gone before us.” At 1:00 am sharp, there is a candlelight procession back to El Calvario, where the faithful chant and pray along the way. At the destination, an altar is placed for the cross, and a rosary is said to welcome the faithful departed. For two hours the vigil continues. The melting candle wax, in Nahua tradition, is said to be like the “tears of joy or sadness that flow, either to be remembered or forgotten.” At three in the morning the procession returns to the town, “with the faithful departed” in attendance, some to their homes, others to the church again.

In earlier times, the young boys would then go through the community gardens and steal squash, jícamas and corn to offer them at the church. The leader gave them a pot in which to cook the stolen fruits and vegetables, and gave the sugar, while the boys looked for contributions of honey from those who kept hives. Then everyone present got to taste the mixture. Leader Aguilar lamented that nowadays, that tradition has been lost.

October 31 is the vigil, when first we remember the children who died. Then November 1 is for the adults who died. We raise their altars with beds of banana plant leaves, their candle, their sprays of flowers, bread and tamales. We offer prayers for them at night and in the morning. Said Ofelio Aguilar, “I have 26 departed ones to care for, and for each one I try to put out their candle, a piece of bread or two, their fruits, tortillas and huaje salsa, but a lot depends on how much money I have.”

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