The Day of the Dead is a day I haven’t been at home for since 2010.
When I say home, I mean El Paso, Texas, where I was born and raised, and where my family still lives today. It’s a vibrant city of about 800,000 inhabitants, built in the desert of course, but not nearly as deserted as classic Western movies depict.
The beautiful and iconic Franklin mountains lie on one side and the border with Mexico on the other. On the other side of this border is the Mexican city of Cuidad Juarez. Between them, El Paso and Ciudad Juarez constitute the second largest binational metropolitan area on the Mexico – US border (after San Diego – Tijuana), with a combined population of over 2.7 million people. And here, let me tell you, hate has no place.
This year, I’m back home with my family in this special month of November, when we celebrate the lives of our loved ones who await us and give thanks for the blessings of the year and commence the holiday season.
The Border fence
The Day of the Dead, November 2nd, is known by many across the world as All Souls Day. It forms part of the season of Allhallowtide, including All Saints Day (November 1st) and its vigil, Halloween (October 31st).
In Mexican culture, which straddles both sides of the US-Mexican border and beyond, the Day of the Dead (“Dia de Los Muertos”) is integral to national identity. The celebration of this day was made famous worldwide by the depiction of a huge celebratory parade in Mexico City at the start of the James Bond movie “Spectre” in 2015.
This year, we were fortunate here in El Paso to see some of the amazing items and props used in that wonderful scene in Spectre up close. In fact, they were displayed by the very group of gifted artists who made them. It was a sight to behold, I can tell you.
The El Paso Museum of Art hosted a wonderful Day of the Dead altar which was dedicated to the inspirational Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada. The festivities included performances by Mariachis and Ballet Folklorico groups. Hot chocolate and Day of the Dead bread was served and the experience was pretty awesome.
For me, the best part of being home at this special time of year was being able to remember and celebrate the lives of my departed loved ones in the places I knew them. My mom has a little space with pictures of my grandmother and uncle, among others, and just lighting a couple of candles by them gave me peace.
Beyond that, it was lovely to see the way this special community comes together at this time of year. Earlier this week my husband James, who is from Gibraltar, was fascinated by an altar that they had made at the local doctor’s surgery. I’ve included a pic of it below.
It was a reminder of how wherever we are and whatever we are doing, we remain mortal beings on this earth, but with the love and hope of eternal joy.
I hope you have a happy upcoming holiday season with all who are special to you.