Mas Dia de los Muertos!

This week, Monday and Tuesday were holidays in Mexico—Dia de los Muertos is an actual national holiday here—so we didn’t go work those days. We started our celebration Sunday night with the other missionaries here at Teca Once. Pat Wright set up a table as an ofrenda where we could all place pictures of our deceased loved ones. Then we gathered together on Sunday evening, and each couple told about one of their people. It was sweet to hear the tender stories, mostly about parents or grandparents. Afterwards we had the traditional Dia de los Muertos bread (which is sweet and almost has an orange taste to it) and hot chocolate. Ron and I also brought fried plantains and the Alsops brought churros. The night was also a bit of a farewell to the Burtons, who finished their mission and returned home this week. The missionaries here humorously refer to couples who have finished their missions and gone home as being “on the other side,” so it fit right in with the Dia de los Muertos theme. The Burtons read their “Will” and bequeathed items to those of us who are still here. It was a lot of fun. We haven’t known the Burtons long, but they are such lovely people. We wish we had the chance to get to know them better.
The couple two to the left of us are the Burtons who are now "on the other side."


 

After the party, we went with the Wrights to the pueblito. Although Dia de los Muertos didn’t officially start until Monday, it gets lumped in with Halloween, so the celebration there began Sunday night. We saw a very fancy ofrenda, complete with lights and music. We also found a booth where they were making fresh French fries in a hug pot. We heard there was a parade a block over from where we were and went to find it. It turned out to be a group dressed in Aztec attire performing traditional dances. They stopped right in front of us to perform, and it was amazing to watch. I had a hard time getting a good still photo because they were moving so fast. Next we went to the town square, which has

a little church and garden in it, but which has been closed due to the pandemic. It was open for the holiday. A gazebo in the garden had been turned into an ofrenda for the entire pueblito. The walls were covered by photos of people who have passed, and a lovely design made from flower petals was on the floor in the center. Two men told us about the display—in Spanish, of course, but I caught some of it. They pointed out pictures of their family. Then they pointed out two sections of pictures, which they told us were people who had died in the pandemic. They said there are 2,000 people living in the pueblito, and 200 died from COVID. That number seems high, but I did a quick count of the photos they had up, and it was well over 100. That means that between 5 and 10 percent of the population has died from the virus there. I think this helps explain the cautiousness we see in people here when it comes to the pandemic. Even though Mexico City is at level green, people still wear masks, most stores check your temperature and give you hand sanitizer when you enter, and Uber drivers often drive with the windows partly down. Almost everyone you talk to here has had at least one close family member die from COVID. One of the men at the gazebo had both his mother and sister die from it.

Aztec Dancers


A couple dressed for Dia de los Muertos and carrying pictures of their deceased loved ones

The ofrenda in the pueblito


 
Ron with the Wrights and Cluffs

On Monday, all eight of the Teca Once couples loaded into a twenty passenger van (basically a small bus) and drove to San Andres Mixquic, an area known for its Dia de los Muertos celebration. The ride took nearly two hours, and we never went through a rural area, it was buildings the whole way. However, it wasn’t all modern skyscrapers like in the heart of Mexico City. San Andres Mixquic was more the way you’d expect Mexico to look--cement buildings connected one to another punctuated by large metal garage door style doors. To my American eyes, the buildings looked old and a bit dilapidated, but then I looked at the people. They were dressed nicely and seemed happy. Occasionally we were able to glimpse through open doors                                                                                                                    and saw nice courtyards with families gathering in them,                                                                                                                      and I realized this is middle class Mexico.                                                                                                                                   
Inside the chapel at Mixquic

The streets there were narrow and very bumpy. Ron and I were sitting in the back of the van, so we were very aware of all the bumps. Despite the roads being narrow, people still parked on both sides. At one point our whole group actually applauded our driver for making it through a particularly narrow spot that we weren’t sure we could get through. 

 In the heart of Mixquic is an old chapel with a cemetery. Many of the graves were decorated for the holiday, and we saw a lot of people going there with arms full of flowers, so I have no doubt that by the next day many more of them were. On top of most of the graves were short, raised walls covered with tile, concrete, or stone. Many also had elaborate headstones. The graves were very close together, in some places a foot or less apart, so it was difficult walking between them. Surrounding the chapel and cemetery was a big festival which I can best describe as being part Memorial Day, part Halloween, and a big part Eastern Idaho State Fair. People were dressed in costumes, booths sold fair food and trinkets, dancers were performing on a central stage, and the crowd of people was thick.

We tried lots of food and bought Ron a hat. We walked a long way, trying to find the other end of the booths, but we finally gave up and went back the way we came, so I really don’t know how big that place was, but trust me, it was huge. At one point we were looking for a restroom. There were several signs for them, but they pointed to narrow, dark alleys that made me nervous. We finally found a well-lit one. We walked down the stairs it pointed to and were in a courtyard which had a room that was a kitchen on one side and a living room on the other. We realized we were in someone’s house. That confused me, and I was about to leave, but the people reassured me I was in the right place. Knowing their house was right on the main street for a couple of huge festivals, this ingenious family installed two toilet rooms and started charging people a few pesos to use them. They were friendly, the bathrooms were clean, and they had nice quality toilet paper, so I spread the word to the rest of our group that this was the place to “go.” 







 Tuesday was Bob Alsop’s birthday. We invited the Alsops to go to lunch and Costco with us. I’d say we took them to lunch, but in reality they took us. They are way more familiar with this area than we are, and they are always taking us to fun places. That day we went to a little restaurant on the edge of a very nice neighborhood. The food was great, and afterwards we strolled through the neighborhood on our way to Costco. We found a cute little French bakery and passed a lot of fun stores. Later that day, the Alsops had us over to watch an episode of “Someone Feed Phil” which we’d never heard of before. The episode we watched was in Mexico City. If you have Netflix and want to get the flavor of Mexico City, watch it! 

 Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we spent at the office, so we really do work sometimes. Early Wednesday morning we had the Communication Department’s monthly meeting with Elder Ochoa, the Second Counselor in the Area Presidency. It was in Spanish, but I was familiar enough with what we are working on that I was able to follow most of the discussion. Following this meeting, Gustavo, the Communications Department Director, had me and Ron sit in on an online meeting discussing religious rights and some recent legislation in Mexico. This meeting was also in Spanish, and I didn’t understand much. I was feeling pretty good after that first meeting so I guess I needed to be humbled. 

 The Communication Department has some fun events coming up. Some haven’t been announced publicly yet, so I can’t talk about them, but others I can. I’ve been helping Armando get the “Light the World” materials ready for Mexico. The church sends out Spanish translations, but just because the words are in Spanish doesn’t mean all the activities fit the culture. I went through them and marked any that seemed concerning to me so that Armando could decide if they need adjusting. Ron has been telling the Communication Committee here that I write, and it seems Armando has decided to see if that is true, because he asked me to do some writing about “Light the World” for the church’s Mexican website and social media accounts. When we first got here, I said sure I write, but not in Spanish. However, we have discovered that Word translates quite well, so hopefully my work will just need a little tweaking once it’s translated. 

 Another big upcoming project is an international book fair which will be in Guadalajara the end of November and into December. This week we had an online meeting with the production department which is building our booth. We spent an hour and a half discussing how the booth should be laid out and what should be in it. I had to chuckle because back in the U.S. for something this big, the design of the booth would have been decided six months ago. Here we are, three weeks away from the event, just making these decisions. The mockups the production department showed us were great, so I have no doubt it will turn out wonderfully. 

 

Saturday we went with the Alsops and Davises to the Plaza San Jacinto, which is in an old part of Mexico City that has cobblestone streets and old buildings with the most amazing carved wooden doors. On Saturdays, artists display and sell their work at the San Angel park there. Besides the paintings, the park was surrounded by booths where other artisans sell their work. There was everything there from jewelry to children’s toys. It was a fun place which I know I will be returning to. We had lunch at a cute restaurant right off the square. The table we sat at was in a courtyard behind the building. An old Spanish style hotel ran along one side of the courtyard and was quite picturesque. It made for a lovely day. 




 Here are a few more random things about Mexico to end with: 

 At our office, we use Mexican keyboards, which are just enough different from American ones to confuse me. They have keys we don’t have, functions we don’t have, and some characters in different spots. I doubt I will ever again be confident I know where the keys are for @ and “. 

 I’ve said that people here are ingenious in the ways they find to make money (see the bathroom story above.) Another way they do it is by selling cigarettes one at a time. So if you can scrape together enough money to buy one pack of cigarettes, you can have a business here. 

 In English we would always say "Mr. and Mrs. Searle" or "Brother and Sister Searle." In Spanish, the masculine form can be used for both when talking about a group, so I am having to get used to people referring to us as “Hermanos Searle.” I translate that as “Brothers Searle,” but here that is correct. We had stake conference today. Some of the speakers spoke to the congregation as “Hermanos y Hermanas” (Brothers and Sisters) but others just said “Hermanos,” and I guess that’s fine. We’re in Mexico, so we’ll say things the way they do! 

 Thank you for all for your love and support. Tenga buena semana!

Comments

  1. So fun for you! I look forward to when Dalan and I will get to serve a mission together... away from home. (We've been in the Spanish branch/ ward for over 7 years, and we love it!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love all the cultural pictures. Dayle you look beautiful in that long black and white dress.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow! You are experiencing so much culture. We enjoyed reading all the fun places to eat and shop too! Keep learning about these beautiful people.

    ReplyDelete

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