San Pedro celebrates Dia de los Muertos
Thursday, November 5th, 2015
On Monday, November 2nd, The San Pedro House of Culture (SPHC) once again brought tradition to San Pedro Town. Residents celebrated their dearly departed in the annual ‘Dia de los Muertos’ celebration (Day of the Dead). The tradition is well celebrated in the Mestizo, Maya and Garifuna cultures and is usually observed over two days, November 1st and 2nd. The event was done under the auspices of the National Institute of Culture and History and included the collaboration of several volunteers.
On this occasion, the festivities took place at the SPHC building where a large crowd gathered to start the celebration. After the reading of some rosaries, Director of the SPHC Mito Paz welcomed everyone and explained the importance of the day to those in attendance. “El Dia de los Finados is a tradition of our people. A tradition that our ancestors brought from Mexico when they sought refuge in Northern Belize, during the Caste War. But the tradition is more than what we know of it today. For example, the Aztecs thought their deceased would come every year without fail during this time to celebrate with them, so did the Maya and so do we today,” said Paz. He reiterated that on this special day, everyone should remember their loved ones and pay tribute to their deceased friends and family members.
Following the address, everyone was invited inside the building to view an exhibition that showcased pictures of loved ones that have passed on. The exhibition also featured three cultures, the Aztecs, Maya and Mestizo. The Aztecs would usually adorn their altars with skulls while the Maya prepared ceremonial food cooked underneath the ground, and then there was the Catholic side of the exhibition, which included a grand candle-lit altar draped in white cloths decorated with flowers, rosaries, and a statue of the Holy Virgin. Families scanned each picture, recognizing the images of the deceased, made their offerings to the souls and shared stories about their departed loved ones. The whole room was lit with candles, with the belief that it served as a memorial of the souls who gathered with their loved ones on this sacred day. There was even an altar designated for the ‘Anima Sola,’ the forsaken soul who may not have anyone to pray for him or her. Outside, many gathered to dine with their loved ones, enjoying tamalitos de Chaya, pan de muerto, crema de coco, mechado, sweets, and maja blanca.
According to Paz, in the Maya tradition, people die three deaths. The first death is when our bodies cease to function. The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returning to Mother Earth. The third death, the most definitive death, is when there is no one left alive to remember us.
That same day, early in the morning, a mass had been held at the local cemetery, where hundreds of families gathered to visit the graves of their loved ones. They prayed and brought their offerings in a reunion that honored the dead on their day. The offering included the deceased’s favorite food and drinks.
The SPHC takes the opportunity to thank all those who sponsored and assisted in making the event possible.
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