Monday, October 26, 2015

Semana de los Muertos

The Smithsonian Latino Center offers cool teaching resources through the Día de Muertos theatrical interface and even more resources through the Latino Virtual Museum.
It seems that each year I begin to anticipate El Día de Muertos a bit earlier, and to learn new things about the cultural implications of the Day of the Dead. In fact, it is now my theme for an entire week -- my very own Semana de los Muertos.

Before adding a few new items, I am listing some of the posts from recent years:
  • A perfect vacation at a cooking school in Mexico that has a special lessons for Día de Muertos
  • The tragic story of Murder City, in which the drug lords of Ciudad Juarez have developed a very specific set of rituals and icons surrounding death
  • PRESENTES! describes how traditions surrounding death have been incorporated into my coffee travel course in Nicaragua, and how this relates to our proposal for an ethical cafe on our campus
  • Days of the Deads highlights -- and maps -- comparable festivals and traditions throughout the world
  • Finally, my Alt-dot-musica post introduces the NPR program Alt-Latino, which captures the multitude of fascinating musical tendencies current in Latin America. After writing quite a bit about its work with my hero Manu Chao, I turn to a discussion of its special episode on Dia de los Muertos. Give a listen -- you won't regret it!
All of this is by way of background for a couple of short pieces that came to my attention recently, and that are not nearly as provocative. Those not very familiar with the tradition, in fact, might to best to start with these short videos.

From the Film School Shorts series of the Ringling College of Arts and Design comes a delightful introduction to the tradition. At first this brief piece resembles the 2014 feature film Book of Life, which I discussed at length in Dia de los Libros. That film was intended to capture the essence of the holiday, but quickly got caught up in the pressures to conform to Hollywood norms that even "indie" films face. The short production from Ringling students is much more successful in its representation of a young girl encountering her dead relatives with a fearlessness and joy that would be out of place in many cultures.

Finally, the indispensable Tish Hinojosa describes the Day of the Dead in Hasta Los Muertos Salen a Bailar (When the Dead Come Out to Dance), from her children's album Cada Niño (Every Child). As with most of her music, this song is English/Spanish bilingual in the sense that entire verses are sung in one language and then the other, so everyone gets the message. This particular video version really captures the whimsy of the holiday by putting an obscure Disney short to Hinojosa's tune.
Of course, Casa Hayes-Boh and Whaling House are festooned for the week, and after years of acquaintance with the Mexican traditions, we do honor the dead in our own lives a bit differently that we otherwise would.
Photo by Pamela Hayes-Bohanan. Sugar skulls by the whole family. Miniature figures by artisans in Mexico. Candy bowl most likely from China.

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