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Day of the Dead 1

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Chelsea Walton

on 28 October 2012

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Transcript of Day of the Dead 1

El Dia de los Muertos El Dia de los Muertos El Dia de los Muertos El Dia de los Muertos El Dia de los Muertos El Dia de los Muertos El Día de los Muertos More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people, the Aztecs, had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would unsuccessfully try to eradicate. The modern view of death derives in part from Pre-Hispanic times. The Aztecs played a very important role in the development of this tradition. Through their history this festival emerged as one of complexity and varied interpretations. The Spanish Conquest of 1521 brought about the fusion of Catholic attitudes and indigenous beliefs. The Day of the Dead, All Souls Day, is an official holiday of the Catholic Calendar. All Souls Day is on November 2, following All Saints Day on November 1. Pan de los Muertos In city of Oaxaca, Mexico the local commercial bakery brings in young men from Santo Domingo Comaltepac, "the village of the master bakers" for the occasion, solely to bake massive quantities of these loaves. The Indian Bakers of this valley's surrounding barrios produce three types of bread, each differing by the amount of egg and type of spice used. Pan de los muertos is bread that can be formed into different shapes and is commonly decorated with sugar. Bread is ALWAYS placed on the altar and not removed until the visit to the cemetery for the soul. A loaf of bread is also traditionally given to visitors who come home during the time of celebration. The most common shape sold in the Mexico City bakeries is round and decorated with a cross in the shape of bones covered with sugar. A popular type of decoration used to commemorate the holiday in Mexico is the tissue banner, called papel picado. The most famous artisans live in the "Mestizo" village of San Salvador Huixcolotla. They have been making banners here for over 90 years. At first the banners were made using scissors, but since the 1940's they have been cut with tiny chisels, "fierritos." Today skilled artisans use more than 50 different chisels to make various cuts in up to 50 sheets of tissue paper at a time. The traditional patterns in the rural villages included angels, birds, the chalice, and crosses, but never skeletons. The popular pattern in Mexico City represents skeletons in various activities.
Traditionally, the colored banners are displayed on October 31, the day the angelitos arrive, at 3 p.m. On November 1, the angelitos depart and the adults arrive. When this occurs the colored banners are removed, and the black and white ones are displayed. Papel picado This ritual is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States. Celebrations are held each year in Mesa, Chandler, Guadalupe and at Arizona State University. Although the ritual has since been merged with Catholic theology, it still maintains the basic principles of the Aztec ritual, such as the use of skulls. Today, people wear wooden skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The wooden skulls are also placed on altars that are dedicated to the dead. Sugar skulls, made with the names of the dead person on the forehead, are eaten by a relative or friend. At first glance, sugar skulls appear to be from pre-Hispanic times, perhaps having to do with the human skulls that were kept as trophies by households, and offered to or displayed in honor of a particular god at certain festivals. The human skull as a symbol of death has a long history, and it could be that the sugars skulls in the "ofrendas" are of Catholic origin. Paper mache and sugar skulls are popular, as are cardboard coffins from which a skeleton can be made to jump out. Special masks are also worn, allowing a person to achieve a facial expression for which they feel they are inadequate to achieve. La Catrina comes from Mexican folklore. She is Death incarnate. There are many forms and versions of La Catrina; she can be dressed very fancy or appear as just the bones of a human skeleton. La Catrina helps to express that we are all mortal so we should enjoy what time we have on earth before she takes us away. The most famous representation of La Catrina comes from José Guadalupe Posada a Mexican printmaker. In 1913 he created a zinc etching that has since become a staple of Mexican imagery. "The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic," said Christina Gonzalez, senior lecturer on Hispanic issues at Arizona State University. "They didn't separate death from pain, wealth from poverty like they did in Western cultures." However, the Spanish conquistadors considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. They perceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan.
In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill the ritual. To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1 and 2), which is when it is celebrated today.
Previously it fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, approximately the beginning of August, and was celebrated for the entire month.
Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States and Central America. Food is considered indispensable for the celebration. The foods offered in the memorial are different according to the wishes and social status of the deceased. Typical foods include: bread, fruits vegetables, and sweets. Other delicacies available for the celebration are: sugar skulls (bought from the bakeries with the names of each on of the members of the family who are alive and of the deceased), candied fruit and pumpkins, tamales (corn meal with meat in corn husk) and maize dough cakes, as well as enchiladas and chalupas (thicker corn tortillas with toppings). Beverages which are placed on the memorial include: water, coffee, beer, tequila, and atole (fruit flavored hot drink made from corn meal.) Depending on how elaborate the display is, it will show the status of the dead to the neighbors. While the tradition has stayed mostly the same throughout time, the foods have changed. Today, for instance they honor the dead with beer, enchiladas and chocolate, in ancient times it would more likely have been dogs and turkeys. One thing has remained constant, and that is the use of bread. The custom of having a loaf of bread relates to the early custom in Spain of begging for souls. Some believe that the Spanish technology of bread-baking and the identical term used in Spain highly suggests that this tradition was Spanish in introduction. It has been written that the Zapotec Indians (State of Oaxaca) listed, bread for the dead, among their death offerings for the departed souls. It is believed that this ritual dates as early as the colonial period of Mexico. The Aztecs had various perceptions of their world. Perceptions as simplistic as a "flat disc" surrounded by water, to a toad floating in a water-lily filled sea. This world contained different directions with various associated colors and symbols to each direction and level. One of the most important of these interpretations is that of the terms of a person's death. The Aztecs believed that after a person died, his/her soul would pass through nine levels prior to their final destination, Mictlan - the place of the dead. They also believed that a person's destiny was founded at birth and that the soul of that person was dependent on the type of death rather than the type of life lead by that person. How a person died would also determine what region they would go to. Once they arrived to their specific region a person's soul would either await transformation or linger, awaiting the next destiny. Two months of the Aztec calendar were devoted to the dead. The ninth month was dedicated to infants, and the tenth month included a great feast for dead adults. Many customs are associated with The Day of the Dead celebration. In the home an altar is made with an offering of food upon it. It is believed that the dead partake of the food in spirit and the living eat it later. The "ofrendas"- offerings, are beautifully arranged with flowers, marigolds (zempasuchitl) which are the traditional flower of the dead. There is a candle placed for each dead soul, and they are adorned in some manner. Incense is also used. Mementos, photos, and other remembrances of the dead are also adorning the ofrenda. Offerings (ofrendas) are decorated with many flowers, mainly marigolds (the flower of the dead). Some ofrendas have trails of marigolds (maravillas) that lead to the home. Today, Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico and in certain parts of the United States and Central America. It's celebrated different depending on where you go. In rural Mexico, people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. They decorate gravesites with marigold flowers and candles. They bring toys for dead children and bottles of tequila to adults. They sit on picnic blankets next to gravesites and eat the favorite food of their loved ones. In Guadalupe, the ritual is celebrated much like it is in rural Mexico.
"Here the people spend the day in the cemetery," said Esther Cota, the parish secretary at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. "The graves are decorated real pretty by the people." In Mesa, the ritual has evolved to include other cultures, said Zarco Guerrero, a Mesa artist.
"Last year, we had Native Americans and African-Americans doing their own dances," he said. "They all want the opportunity to honor their dead." In the United States and in Mexico's larger cities, families build altars in their homes, dedicating them to the dead. They surround these altars with flowers, food and pictures of the deceased. They light candles and place them next to the altar.
"We honor them by transforming the room into an altar," Guerrero said. "We offer incense, flowers. We play their favorite music, make their favorite food."
At Guerrero's house, the altar is not only dedicated to friends and family members who have died, but to others as well.
"We pay homage to the Mexicans killed in auto accidents while being smuggled across the border," he said. "And more recently, we've been honoring the memories of those killed in Columbine." At the centerpiece of the altar (ofrenda) is a photo of the person to whom the altar is dedicated. The frame is personalized with mementos that reflect that individual.
The alter has three levels, the lowest represents the past, the middle respresents the present, and the top layer represents the future/afterlife. It is important to prepare a feast for the spirits to enjoy. Traditionally, tamales, mole, pan de muertos and seasonal fruits are placed at the altar, but creating a buffet with the honoree's favorite dishes and treats adds a personal touch. Yellow and orange marigolds are left at the altar because of their robust aroma. Another staple is the presence of whimsical "calacas" or skeletons. The calacas offer those in the physical world something tangible that captures the loved one's spirit. Candles are another must-have. Purple candles represent pain, pink is for celebration and white for hope, but all the parts of the altar should reflect what the dead enjoyed in the physical world — so there is plenty of room for personalization. A bar of soap, towel, bowl of water (not pictured) and other grooming items are traditionally left at the altar with the belief that the dead have been on a long journey and would like to refresh themselves. Items that represent the personality of the honoree are added, which can be things the person enjoyed on earth or things for which the person became known. While copal incense is traditionally left at most Dia de los Muertos altars, other fragrances can be used. At the center of this photo is a burning branch of sage. It is thought that these pungent fragrances guide the dead to the altar. A small amount of salt, which is believed to be the spice of life, is left for the dead on most altars so that he or she can add a pinch of flavor to foods which have lost some flavor for them. (cc) photo by medhead on Flickr
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