Day of the Dead to be celebrated

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 12:00 08/11/2012

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A Mexican tradition that pays a playful tribute to the spirits of the departed will bring a Latin flavour to Palmerston North on Saturday.

Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries and in other cultures throughout the world every November.

Massey University senior Spanish lecturer Dr Leonel Alvarado hopes to imbue the tradition in Palmerston North.

A colourful altar was last weekend erected at Palmerston North City Library in tribute to the spirits of loved ones.

In Mexican culture they are considered to have passed into the afterlife and those they have left behind are encouraged to bring offerings in memoriam.

"It is a tradition that has been taking place in Mexico for a long, long time," Dr Alvarado said.

He favours a quote by Nobel Prize in literature laureate Mexican poet Octavio Paz to sum up the meaning of Dia de los Muertos: "To the resident of New York, Paris or London, the word death is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favourite games and his most steadfast love."

"It is also a playful interpretation of death," Dr Alvarado said. "It is a day when people every year remember the departed, and bring them drinks like tequila and Coronas, and bring them food like chocolate. It is a reunion that takes place year after year and reminds that death is part of daily life."

Altars are traditionally colourful, decorated with flowers and candles. Skeletons made of sugar are a common motif, and offerings of bread and chocolate are made to the dead.

The number of Latin American expats in Manawatu had been estimated at as many as 400 people in recent years, Dr Alvarado said.

The day will come to a close with critic and curator Claudia Arozqueta delivering a lecture at Palmerston North City Library about death in Mexican art and culture.

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- Manawatu Standard

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