Mexico is not just beautiful vacation beaches, luxury resorts, culinary delights and friendly people.
Nor is it just rural poverty, government corruption, drug cartels and crime.
Mexico is also about a country steeped in a diversity of cultures and their respective festivals, some that are local, but also some deep-rooted traditions that are celebrated throughout the country — and the entire world!
One of the most recognized yearly events that is celebrated throughout Mexico is the Day of the Dead or El Día de los Muertos.
This celebration is rich in rituals and expresses the unique and exceptional relationship that many people have with death and their ancestors.
It’s a spiritual time of the year, at the start of November, to gather families together, reflect and remember those who have departed. But it is not a sad time; it’s a happy celebration meant to honor departed loved ones and to appreciate life while we are still part of the living.
The celebrations vary by area, but some common symbols include skeletons, sugar skulls, altars, and colorful-paper streamers.
It is not, as some think, a “Mexican Halloween” because of the timing of the year. It has little to do with the trick-or-treat Halloween customs in the United States. However, it is a celebration with pre-Hispanic roots that was gradually associated with the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).
One of the most recognizable symbols of The Day of the Dead celebrations is a version of a female skeleton known as “La Catrina.” Display of this skeleton style in the United States has become very trendy in recent years. However, the icon was made famous decades ago, first by Mexican artists Jose Guadalupe Posada, and later by the likes of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.
It is believed that the Aztecs worshipped a goddess of death that protected their departed loved ones, helping them into the next stages.
Right here in Merced, you will find one of the best celebrations of The Day of the Dead at the Multicultural Arts Center, including a huge Catrina skeleton.
The gallery exhibit features alters, masks, and paintings by local artists and is curated by Charles Perez, Richard Gomez, Martha Azevedo, and Oscar Torres.
There will be a reception on Saturday, Nov. 2 , from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Feel free to bring a photo of those you would like to celebrate, and dress in traditional fare if you’d like. There will also be free live music, face painting, and refreshments. The MAC, 645 W Main Street.
You can also visit the exhibit at other times during gallery open hours which are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
On Your Mark …
And, as usual, Merced has plenty of other activities to choose from. For an unusual treat try the Merced Gateway Sport Fest this Saturday, Oct. 6, starting at 8 a.m., at Merced College. It will feature a Sprint Distance Triathlon, Duathlon, Aquathlon, Aqua Bike, Kids Tri, 3.0 Mile Run and a Kids’ 1-Mile Run. Truly a day filled with events