Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)

What is “Día de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) ?
And colorful graveyards with fiestas, once a year made Fiambre food, gigantic kites of Sumpango, robbery of my wallet…

In every year on 1-2 November, Day of the Dead is celebrated, mostly in Mexico and some Central American countries, for people to memorialize their dead ancestors. But in a festival mood, not in despair and sadness.

I mentioned you that Maya culture and Christianity are bounded together in here. Graveyards are painted colorfuly, like a child’s dream, in every color of rainbow. You find yourself in the pure dream of a child; not in a grey, cold, tense, gloomy, creepy place. Even more, when I saw a Transformers painting on a grave of a child, I didn’t feel sad for the dead child, I felt cheerful, like I’ve never met that child before, but enjoyed together with, and missing those days. Or maybe it feels like, that child, who doesn’t know what death is, drew his/her own funny graveyard on a paper, excitingly running around and showing people his/her drawing, with positive energy, before his/her death.

Here, in these graveyards, kites are flown, for the connection between the heavenly skies and the earth. People make a wish or say a prayer, before loosening the strings of the kites from their hands to the eternity of the sky.

During the garnishing of graves with flowers, music and fiesta, people feed themselves with a food named “Fiambre”, that’s only made once a year. It’s basically a salad with everything you can imagine put inside and decorated, that’s said to contain 50 ingredients. The ones I counted were, sausage, tomato, cheese, egg, lettuce, onion, corn, Brussel sprout… It takes the whole day of struggle to make it!

One day before I knew that something called Fiambre existed, my landlord Señora Elizabeth took me to the kitchen in excitement to show me the ingredients that covered the whole table, which seemed to be a feast of a king. I couldn’t understand the magnificent view I saw, and murmured, “okk…annd…sooo?”, in a silent and timid tone, like a nervous small student trying to understand in front of his teacher.

The practice of people to spend time with their dead relatives aren’t limited to graveyards. During this day, a candle is lit in a corner of the house, and a cup of water is placed next to it. Therefore, souls of the dead, who are wandering on streets to find their relatives, distinguish the candle light that signifies themselves, to find their old house. And when they reach ther home, a cup of water is waiting for them, to end their thirst from the road.

Giant kites in the size of a home greeted us in Sumpango. Each one of them are painted and carved like a piece of art. They carry messages, a meaning. You can think of the giant 3D choreographs and signs in stadiums, to make similarities in your mind. However, these are tied to ropes and imagine that they fly in the stadium only with the wind power. For example, for the Beşiktaş fans (a Turkish football team with eagle mascot), an eagle shaped kite flying in the stadium. (The ones in Sumpango were in shape of owl and peacock)

As a result, many children, families, locals and tourists flooded into Sumpango. Have I been to a more crowded place in my life, before? On the long streets, people try to move in both directions by pushing each other. There’s a saying in Turkish for very crowded places, that if you throw off a needle, it won’t fall into floor. Looks like that saying comes true in here. Suddenly, a man going to opposite side, pushes me to my right forcefully, like he’s up to making a fight. I try not to fall on the people on my right with a huge effort and be misunderstood. Angrily, I look back and focus to the man who’s about to disappear in the flow of the people like a flowing river. It’s that moment, my wallet got stolen, in this conspicious trick. I realized this 5 mins later after I got out of the crowd when I wanted to buy food. Eh, I guess I was looking for trouble, while I was taking pics of people and showing off my camera, wearing gringo-like sunglasses and going around with my American group of friends. At least, I had only a little amount of money, and my IDs, without any credit cards. Photocopies of my IDs are still with me. When I woke up that morning, I listened to my inner sound, and left the cards at home.

Of course, I was filled with grief and sadness at first. But it was a good lesson for me. Anyways, money is flowing in and out, during the life a person, no need to be sad for a piece of paper that will keep coming and going. The funny side is, the fear for my IDs to be stolen, won’t bother me anymore in here hahaha, they’re already stolen 🙂 The only wish I make is, I hope the thief uses my money for good things, and it’ll be my gift to him/her.