Ensenada Gallery Exhibit Showcases the Spirit of Mexico’s Day of the Dead
Because they are celebrated just a few days apart from one another, and perhaps because they also both happen to contain certain otherworldly elements, it is a common misconception among casual observers that Halloween in the United States and Mexico’s Day of the Dead are practically synonymous. In fact, they are not.
Stateside celebrations of Halloween have become overly commercialized and often tend to focus on shock value, with revelers trying to win a prize for ‘best costume’ at a party. On the other hand, Dia de Los Muertos, as it is called south of the border, is not about ghosts, goblins or other scary things at all, but is rather a joyful annual festival in which individuals and families honor memories of those who were close to them that have now passed on.
The event takes place in Latin America on November 1st and 2nd. The first day is dedicated to the memory of children and babies who have died, while the second is held in the honor of dead adult relatives and friends. The lives of the deceased are celebrated with displays of food, drink and activities that the dead once enjoyed during their lifetimes. At the same time, there is the sober recognition that death is ultimately a natural part of life’s evolutionary cycle.
It is a centuries old custom that combines indigenous Aztec rituals with artifacts of Catholicism that were originally brought to Mexico by the conquistadors from Spain. Stands selling brilliantly orange marigolds, shops displaying festive altars and bakeries offering colored skulls are a common sight. Today, most families follow the traditional practices of their native regions, which may vary slightly from state to state. Often, this includes a trip to a local cemetery where the grave sites of departed friends and family members can be adorned with a variety of decorations, including offerings of flowers, candles, favorite foods and beverages.
Situated in the tourist district in downtown Ensenada and now almost 20 years old, Bazaar Casa Ramirez on Lopez Mateos is perhaps one of the best places in Baja to get a taste of the true essence of this very special holiday. In addition to having created a showcase of some of Mexico’s best handcrafted arts, owner Alejandra Ramirez has put together a fantastic Dia de los Muertos exhibit that artfully portrays this rich Mexican tradition. She does so using a bevy of authentic folk art, as well as an upstairs gallery that includes an elaborate shrine celebrating the departed; complete with photos, mementos and consumable offerings. The exhibit at Casa Ramirez will be open to the public until Wednesday, November 20th, 2013.
Despite the celebratory nuances and festivities associated with this holiday, it is extremely important for foreign visitors to remember the somber focus of the tradition and to act appropriately. As an example, visiting a cemetery and taking photos of families decorating grave sites or involved in any other related personal activities is considered rude and in poor taste. Public displays at places such as schools, churches or private businesses, however, are generally open to tourist photographers. After all, they are the best ambassadors to spread the word about yet another colorful event around which to plan your next Baja vacation.
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