In mexicayotl aic ixpolihuiz
November 2, 2006 5:09 AM   Subscribe

Mexican Day of the Dead, only with a twist: in Pomuch, in the Mayan area in Southeastern Mexico, Mayans celebrate their dead by digging out their remains, and cleaning them. Photos here. The regular Day of the Dead of the dead festivities have been discussed previously on MetaFilter here, here, and here. For those of you who may want to practice, this is a story en español. The link to the pictures might be NSFW.
posted by micayetoca (21 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
A twist is like a bit of lemon or lime in your drink. Something that adds a little zest.

Digging up the bones of your relatives is not a twist.

Twisted yes.
posted by three blind mice at 6:00 AM on November 2, 2006

Pretty darn neat; it really complements that recent FPP where we discussed how our society is too far removed from death.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:25 AM on November 2, 2006

Alvy: I'm glad you liked it. It's my first FPP and for a second after clicking "Post" I thought it was going to freak everybody out and get myself banned.

three blind mice: It is impressive how differently some people can see the world (and the afterworld), innit?
posted by micayetoca at 6:36 AM on November 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh my!
posted by caddis at 6:46 AM on November 2, 2006

I've been researching death rituals for a while now so this post is right up my alley, so to speak. A fine post.
posted by ob at 7:02 AM on November 2, 2006

There's a similar tradition in Madagascar, called famadihana. Something similar in Southern Italy, too, I think. I'm Googling for it now.
posted by Grangousier at 7:03 AM on November 2, 2006

Grangousier, you are a star. I have a song called Famadihana by an excellent band from Madagascar called Tarika Sammy. The song came in a compilation and there it said it was a "traditional reburial song." I looove the song, and I always wondered about the reburial. Never connected that to the Mexican tradition. Thx a lot for this link.
posted by micayetoca at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2006

Alas, Yoricke pobre
posted by hal9k at 7:08 AM on November 2, 2006

I suspect it wasn't Italy, but Croatia (see this PDF) - there was a fascinating television documentary many years ago, and my memory is failing me.
posted by Grangousier at 7:29 AM on November 2, 2006

This is fascinating. Thank you for posting it!
posted by runtina at 8:52 AM on November 2, 2006

I attended a very interesting lecture in Mexico a few years back, that talked a bit about the tradition of digging up and cleaning the bones.

One of the most touching parts to me is that people use the opportunity to bring the bones up to date on family events. It's all very chatty (at least on the part of the living).

I don't usually bash religion, but I have to say that the level of abstraction around death is one of the unhealthiest aspects of Christianity. Mexico has a variety of very cool, concrete traditions, but they all can be traced back to pre-Christian roots.
posted by tkolar at 9:33 AM on November 2, 2006

Truly fascinating. And sad, and strange, and yet at the same time wonderfully...rational. Thanks, micayetoca. And I agree with tkolar, taking grandma's femur to a picnic isn't any "weirder" than practicing the abstract denial about her "passing on" to go "play the harp with Jesus in the clouds. "
posted by applemeat at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2006

True story per my neighbors:

Wife: Where's the dog?
Husband: (looks through kitchen window) Uh... out in the backyard playing with the cat.
Wife: Honey, the cat's been dead for over a year now. Don't you remember you buried it in the backyard?
Husband: Yup.
Wife: [shriek]
posted by hal9k at 11:06 AM on November 2, 2006

So I went unknowingly through a whole day at work. Not knowing that is was the day of the dead. We should have celebrated.
Misted chances in life are the saddest.
posted by jouke at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2006

Thanks to you all, I am very glad this was so well received.

And as for the weirdness factor: I get the feeling sometimes we get used to the idea that people have "different perspectives" if they vote for the party we don't vote for, or if they prefer a vanilla latte to a regular cup of coffee when that might just mean they have another take on the same issue.

It's things like this that remind me how profoundly different perspectives can be. How "different" might not mean to just see The other side of the coin, but to see things from another point of view altogether.

Thanks for keeping an open mind.
posted by micayetoca at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2006

Y'all should get out more, take a drive. Every day is day of the dead.
posted by Julie at 12:51 PM on November 2, 2006

There's a similar tradition among certain Native American tribes (I forget which at the moment) involving an "air burial" and then the cleaning of the bones by a shaman. Neat stuff. I always think our burial customs show the most "soul" of our culture, even when we seem to try to hide as much of our humanity as possible in other aspects of it.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 1:11 PM on November 2, 2006

Right on micayetoca! Awesome first post. I've been to Dia de los Muertos celebrations and they're beautiful. No I didn't see any bones, unfortunately I don't know any real Mayans. But my kids did takes lessons on how to make traditional sugar skulls .
posted by snsranch at 3:49 PM on November 2, 2006

Good post Micayetoca.

My father used to take us to different small towns in Mexico for Dia de Muertos. You never knew what you would find. At least in one town in Michoacan we saw human skulls with golden teeth on the chucrch altar, covered in flowers and confetti. Too bad we never made it to Pomuch.

Dia de Muertos is one of the few holly days I enjoyed in Mexico. We used to put the same kind of effort into our altars as some hard-core halloweeners put into their costume.

As you say, it is one of the best examples of how profoundly different two cultures can be, regardless of the number of McDonalds per capita they have, but on the other side, is it not interesting that two death celebrations take place within 72 hours of each other?
posted by Dataphage at 4:09 PM on November 2, 2006

I can't keep my mouth shut, here goes a persona show off story :)

My grandfather gave me a real human skull, which I kept in my room for years, and would use on altars on dia de muertos. I did not risk bringing it to the US when I moved.

My grandmother insisted that a couple of years after she died, one of her grandchildren should dig out her skull, clean it and keep it in a nice place. Whoever does it, gets to keep the golden nails in her knee bones. She's been dead 16 years, and not one of us has dared to do it. if I ever do it, I may start a skull collecting family tradition.

No one seemed to think a 12 year old having a skull in his room gross or twisted. The same goes for my grandma's request.

The interesting thing is that neither one was Indian, they were as Hispanic white as you can bee, and catholic to the bone. But as many middle class kids in their generation (and my parent's), they were raised by Indian nannies.

I have yet to make a FPP, but I am sure it will be about cultures that are 100% catholic and 100% polytheistic, like Mexico.
posted by Dataphage at 4:11 PM on November 2, 2006

I like the Day of the Dead. It's has just the right mixture of whimsy and dread. Since I'm Hindu and we burn our dead, it's a touch odd to see the obsession with material remains, but when my Mexican friend asked me to put cigarettes on the altar, I was oddly touched.
posted by dhruva at 4:22 PM on November 2, 2006

« Older Polling Place Photo Project   |   Breaking the Chain. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments