Día de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - is celebrated in different ways in different regions of Latin America. Here it is, San Pedro style.
On October 31st workers began to clean up the cemetery and artists and family members arrived to paint and decorate the tombs.
The kids on the tomb are flying kites, a popular activity in San Pedro on any breezy day but, more importantly, a very Guatemalan way to celebrate Día de los Muertos. Some communities in Guatemala have kite festivals featuring competitions with kites up to dozens of meters in diameter.
Vendors set up shop outside the entrance, selling pine needles
When I visited the cemetery with Mynor and Josefa and their boys on November 1st, they purchased candles to put on the tombs of family members and close friends; the process was repeated on November 2nd.
Here Mynor spreads pine needles at the tomb of Josefa's grandfather.
Families pay to have musicians serenade the tombs of their loved ones.
I wasn't the only one taking pictures of the musicians. :-)
The cemetery is only a few (very steep) blocks above our house so it was convenient to visit morning, noon, and night over several days. On the morning of November 2nd there was a well attended mass held at the cemetery.
I watched as church volunteers packed up and carried the furniture and fixtures away, but services continued throughout the day.
There were noise makers and cotton candy and ice cream for sale. There were fire crackers and 'bombas'. There were kids everywhere, some walking hand in hand with their grownups, others running like wild ponies or jumping on trampolines.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my own beloveds as I strolled between the tombs, especially my wonderful parents, reunited in April when my father passed away. I saw extended family groups hugging and laughing, others quietly praying. I saw a lot of people I knew and heard so many stories of loss and of pride, stories about faith and bus accidents and landslides. I cried with a Beca dad who showed me the tomb of an infant son who would be 7 years old now, had he lived. I told him about our Beth who would be 30. I think what I saw most was devotion.
Día de los Muertos in San Pedro is a multi-sensory event, the scent of candles and the music of the marimbas, guitars, saxophones, and accordions filling in the spaces into the night.
I thought Día de los Muertos had ended for me when I fell asleep listening to the marimbas through an open window, but there was 1 surprise left. This evening (November 3rd), Josefa knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to try fiambre, a traditional Guatemala salad only prepared for Día de los Muertos. It grew from the tradition of family members preparing favorite foods for departed loved ones. There were so many favorite foods that family recipes for fiambre have grown to include an incredible array of meat, cheese, beans, eggs, and vegetables - as many as 70 ingredients. This fiambre was prepared by the mother of one of Mynor and Josefa's friends, my final multi-sensory Día de los Muertos experience for 2015.
It is with reverence for the local traditions and enduring love and gratitude for my departed beloveds that I share this post.
You can find the complete photo collection for this trip HERE.