Dia de Muertos has come and gone...or los días have come and gone. I am blurry on details, but in fact there are different days to mark departed children, for instance, and departed adults. It seems to me that it was quieter this year than in the past, or maybe it is just me. Or maybe it was the absence of the thundering of cohetes.
We could see altars in most of the houses in our Colonia, some simple, some ornate, through windows and open doors. Decorating them is a big deal. In case you don't know, generally the altars are dedicated to someone or some people who have died. You put out favorite foods and drinks for the person: cigars, a shot of whiskey, a cup of coffee. Always tamales and fruit -- mandarinas. And candles. And tiny baskets of candies. You can get tiny marzipan-like candies formed into objects that your loved ones were fond of and put them in little paper baskets. And you make an arch of giant orange marigolds and branches of a plant I can't remember the name of (some guide I am). I do know the local name of the marigolds: cempasuchiles. You can see our basket hanging from it. And of course there are decorated chocolate and sugar calaveras.
I was going to make some latkes for my grandmother, but didn't get a chance. And if we'd planned this out, I certainly would have had schnappes and a cigar for my grandfather. Instead, we'll have the latkes for our election night gathering (I don't want to say party, I'm way too superstitious.) Jim's parents would have been happy with our home-grown tangerines already there and some of our home-grown bananas. I think maybe some apples and pears from their own orchard if that were possible.
By the way, Tere says pets are not forgotten. A dish of water or milk can be left outside the back door for them.
Anyway, only if you believe will the dead return to visit. I really, really wanted to believe. I sure would love to have a visit especially from my grandmother.
Tere brought us some bean tamales which her family had on Friday. On Saturday we went to her house to try out the chicken tamales which were covered in a delicious mole she and her sister made. We learned that the masa for tortillas and for tamales is virtually the same, though courser ground for the tamales.
We didn't go to the Panteón in Xico this year, but we drove past it a number of times last week. People were very busy cleaning, bringing flowers, decorating. The wall around the Panteón was newly painted.
These celebrations in our community bind people together. I don't want to sound schmaltzy: being bound together isn't always pleasant. But I do think these connections, whether down the street or via the internet or jet or car, are what keep us human in a good sense.
In Patzcuaro and Morelia, the Day of the Dead celebrations are Something Else. Here is a link to the blog Mexico Cooks! which will give you something of the flavor there.