Feliz Dia de los Muertos

 


I know back in the United States you are celebrating Halloween, but in Mexico we are celebrating Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It is November 1 and 2, and often the two get intermingled. With its symbols of skulls and skeletons, it would be easy to assume Dia de los Muertos and Halloween would go hand in hand, but they are really very different. The more I learn about Dia de los Muertos, the more I love it. I think when I get home, I will continue to celebrate it instead of Halloween.

If you’ve watched the movie Coco, you’ve got a basic idea of the holiday. In fact, they recommended we watch that movie before we came here. At its core, the holiday is a celebration of ancestors. The tradition is that during those days, the spirits of deceased loved ones can return to earth. The celebration includes creating ofrendas, tables commemorating deceased loved ones. Monarch butterflies and cempasuchil flowers (a type of marigold) play a part in the holiday. It occurs at the time of year when Monarchs are migrating back to Mexico for the winter. Tradition says these butterflies are the returning souls. They eat the nectar of the strongly scented cempasuchil, so those flowers decorate the ofrendas with the thought that the fragrance of the flowers will help guide the souls. Ofrendas also hold food, candles, and other decorations as offerings to the ancestor guests. This week in our travels we’ve seen marigolds and skeletons all over Mexico City.




I mentioned “our travels.” This week we’ve done a lot of going around the city. The first trip was on Monday evening. Besides our group of senior missionaries at Teca Once, there is another group that lives by the Mexico City Temple. Once a month the two groups meet at a restaurant for dinner. That happened Monday evening. We took a bus and then walked a few blocks to get to the restaurant. This bus was bigger than the ones we took last week, but it didn’t have a lot of seats. Once the ones it did have were full, the rest of the passengers had to stand holding on to bars that ran the length of the bus. The bar in the center was a bit high for me. Lower ones were on the sides, but holding on to them meant reaching over people sitting in the seats. I was a little timid to do that at first, but with the bumpy, swaying, swerving motion of the bus, it didn’t take me long to get over my timidity. I grabbed tight to that bar even though it put my armpit right above the face of a woman in the seat! The restaurant we went to was very nice and the food was fabulous. Plus we got to meet a lot of wonderful people, so it was a lovely evening. Going home, the bus wasn’t so full, so I got to sit. One of the couples we met was the Lloyds. They are area humanitarian missionaries, and we will be coordinating with them a lot to cover their projects. In fact, we had a virtual training session with them a couple of days after we met them.



We’d been told that there is a Wal-mart within easy walking distance from where we live, so Tuesday Ron and I decided to take off on our own and try to find it. Ron looked it up on his phone, and the closest one he could find was in the opposite direction from what I thought we’d been told. I just figured I’d misunderstood, so we took off walking. We walked, and walked, and walked, but it was pleasant weather and the route mainly had a slight downhill slope, so it wasn’t bad, just long. It took us into some areas that aren’t as nice as where we live, but I never felt anything but safe. The people here are so friendly. Most greet you as you pass. It reminds me of people in Idaho, and I love that. We eventually found the Wal-mart and did our shopping. When we got back and told the others where we’d gone, they said, “Wow, you had a long walk!” Then they told us that the Wal-mart which is near us shows up with a different name on Google Maps and is a lot closer. We’ll have to go find it the next time we need to make a Wal-mart run.

On Thursday I woke up with a stiff neck and decided I better go to a chiropractor. We called one who was recommended by a woman in the English ward, and he could work me in that afternoon. When we got out of the Uber we took to my appointment, we looked up and down the block and wondered where we were supposed to go. There were no signs and very few numbers on any of the buildings. Ron was able to bring up a picture of the building on his phone so we could at least know which one it was. Inside was a long hallway with a desk about a third of the way down. A woman at the desk had us sign in and asked who we were there to see. When we told her, she told us which floor and room number he was in. We didn’t pay much attention to the room number because we assumed once we were on the floor, there would be a sign. Wrong! Instead we found ourselves in a funny little hallway that had three or four doors and no signs, just numbers. Ron thought he knew which number it was, so we went to that door. It was locked, but Ron knocked. A woman answered, and I expected her to tell us we were at the wrong place. Instead she let us in and locked the door behind us. Between the look of the building and the locked doors, I would have been a bit wary if I hadn’t been given a recommendation to go to this chiropractor. And it turned out great. He did a long evaluation and then did an adjustment on me, and I’ve been great ever since.


While I was being treated, Ron was looking things up on his phone. He’d found what looked like an interesting site that wasn’t far away, so we walked to it. It turned out to be a disappointment, but when we got to it, we looked up the road and could see the Angel of Independence, a large monument. It has marigolds planted all around the base of it right now for Dia de los Muertos. We’d driven past it several times and I wanted to go see it, so we decided to walk there. The weather here has been gorgeous, so it was a lovely, evening stroll. All along the street were plantings of marigolds and vendors selling trinkets. There were a lot of other people walking around too, some in costumes, and It had a fun, festive feeling.



Friday and Saturday we spent at the Expo Genealog√≠a, which was a genealogy expo like RootsTech but just for Mexico. It was held in what is called The World Trade Center of Mexico, a tall skyscraper in the middle of the city. We were there as part of our missionary assignment, and we got to meet Elder Hamilton of the Seventy, who is the executive director of the church’s Family History department, and Stephen Rockwood, who is the President and CEO of FamilySearch. The expo was very well done, though the turn out was a little low. Two years ago, they said it was packed. Then last year they didn’t hold it because of COVID. This year they offered both an in person and an online option.

I think a lot of people opted for online. I was amazed at how many people saw our missionary name tags and came up to speak with us. Often they asked if they could have their picture taken with us. Then they would thank us for our service. I felt a little guilty about that because we haven’t done much yet.



Holiday decorations in the pueblito

Saturday after we got back from the expo, we walked up to the pueblito with some of the other missionaries and had dinner at a little restaurant there. Some people won’t eat at the pueblito because it’s just a step above eating from the street vendors, but the food we had was delicious and we didn’t get sick. After dinner we walked around the pueblito. A lot of the stores were closed, but the restaurants and grocery stores were open. People were out visiting and enjoying the evening, and it had the pleasant feeling of a sweet little neighborhood. We’re hoping that we become recognized and a part of that neighborhood. We plan to do a lot of our shopping there.


A girl in the pueblito made up for the holiday


As for our work, we have been given a few assignments to work on, but we’re still not into the thick of it. The other missionaries tell us that’s not uncommon; it usually takes a couple of months to get going at full speed. We had a meeting Monday with an official in the Mexican government, who works in the department that regulates religion. It was a big deal for our Communications Director, Gustavo. The directors of all the divisions in the area office were there. And then there was me and Ron. I felt like a duck out of water at it for two reasons, first, I was the only woman, and second, I don’t speak Spanish very well yet. When we ride in Ubers, I can follow about ninety percent of the conversation, and even contribute a little. But in a meeting like that one, where in-depth concepts are being discussed, I don’t catch more than a word here and a phrase there. Occasionally, everyone else would start laughing, and I’d think, “I guess someone just made a good joke.”


Just a few observations to end with:

The police cars here have their flashing lights on all the time. You only have to worry if they turn on their sirens.

Cookies and cakes here look better than they taste. The one exception is flan.

Everyone here is just trying to make a little money to get by on, and they have some ingenious ways of doing it. Organ grinders, flower stands, shoe shiners, and people laying out blankets of trinkets to sell are everywhere. People trying to sell things walk between the cars at stop lights, even on major roads with multiple lanes. We’ve even seen jugglers who run out into the road as soon as the light turns red, put on a show, and then just before the light changes to green, walk between the cars to collection payment for their performance. One we saw was a woman who had a little boy who looked to be about three clinging to her skirt while she juggled. It almost broke my heart to think of that little boy spending all day running in and out of traffic like that. They are just one of so many examples we’ve seen of people who we can tell are living in poverty, and we are in a very nice area. I can’t imagine how it must be in areas that are not so affluent. Ron says he’s pretty sure we’ll go home from our mission broke because how can we not give when we have so much and they have so little. So we keep our pockets full of pesos and tip every chance we get.

 

Comments

  1. It is a great treat to hear about your adventures. What a wonderful opportunity you are experiencing.! Praying for you both and keep up the good work!

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  2. We are learning about Mexico and it’s culture through you!! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful experiences. I love reading your words. I hope you're planning to write a book someday.

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