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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mesilla, New Mexico: Dia de los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


Mesilla is a town just outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

On Saturday, I turned to Mesilla for celebrating El Dia de los Muertos, held in the old plaza. Technically, it was the "weekend" of the dead; the actual day was on the 2nd.


A funeral, for real

When I arrived at the historic plaza, it was just in time to see motorcyclists outside the Basilica of San Albino, where they awaited the end of a funeral, when they would escort the honored deceased to the cemetery.

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico. Basilica of San Albino.

 
Many years ago, when my father's brother-in-law died, the Chattanooga branch of the Bikers for Christ escorted his body to the cemetery.


About El Dia de Los Muertos

El Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) is a Mexican tradition, if you define Mexican to include its Aztec antecedents.  Over the years, its observance has spread throughout the world.

It'd be easy to confuse it with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, liturgical events for some Christian denominations, but the Day of the Dead stands on its own as a uniquely Mexican tradition.

There is both a somber dimension to the observance and a festival dimension.

I experienced both at the El Dia de Los Muertos in Mesilla.


The altars

Even though the plaza was set up with many vendors selling arts and crafts related to the day of the dead, there were also altars set up, honoring real family, friends (and even beloved pets).

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

An especially touching altar was the one made in honor of the women killed in Juarez (population 1.3 million) since the early 1990s. Juarez is in the state of Chihuahua, and in 2010 alone, more than 300 women were killed in Chihuahua (population of 3.2 million). As a point of comparison: in New York City in 2011, there were 515 murders of both men and women. NYC has 8.2 million residents. In 2011, there were up to 2000 homicides in the state of Chihuahua, both men and women.

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

Even though Juarez seems like a world away to most Americans, it's not, really. It's only about an hour and a half away. I'm willing to bet there are Mesilla residents who have lost loved ones by way of these killings. 

Artwork

New Mexico has a real appreciation for creative, beautiful jewelry. Ah, if I had the budget - so many fine earrings, bracelets, rings, and necklaces done up in the skeleton or skull ("calavera") motif, using stones or glass or beads or wood ... I selected a modestly-priced pair of colorful, dangly earrings topped by skulls.

If I had a permanent house, I would have definitely bought one of the tin luminary "bags." And maybe an ornament or two.

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


The clothing mannequins, cool.

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


There were painted faces.

El Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, New Mexico


The area around Mesilla's historic plaza has a lot of charm.

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico

Mesilla, New Mexico


As you might guess, I was entranced by the curb appeal of the building with the blue door.

I had lunch at La Posta Restaurant, which I learned later is a locally-famous landmark. You can read my review of the place here.  

El Dia de los Muertos. I like it.
 

A lagniappe: Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park

Before I headed back to Alamogordo (well ...), I checked out Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park. A pretty garden; some pretty facilities.

Mesilla Vally Bosque State Park, Mesilla, New Mexico







I liked the river of grass below.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, Mesilla, New Mexico






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