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Mexico keeps the Day of the Dead alive despite the COVID-19 pandemic

Mexico kept the Day of the Dead alive in a hybrid celebration according to the times of the pandemic, and while some states in the country kept the pantheons open, for millions of families the traditional festival took place at home, even thousands celebrated it virtually.

A potential outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, as has happened in other countries, put the authorities of several entities in the country on alert who this weekend imposed mobility and coexistence restrictions.

The figures of 91,753 deaths and 924,962 confirmed cases that have placed Mexico as the tenth country with the most infections and the fourth with the most absolute deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, also partially extinguished the most emblematic holiday in the country .

The closure of the cemeteries, between October 31 and November 2, in Mexico City and nearby states, was the most decisive measure to prevent crowds in these places and thus prevent the spread of the disease.

Some of the most significant states in this celebration, such as southern Oaxaca, also suspended visits to cemeteries, while in Michoacán the number of attendees will be restricted.

In some parts of the country, families spent the night of November 1 and the early morning of November 2 in the cemetery to receive the deceased, who according to tradition on those dates return, for a few hours, to the world of the living, but not now. it could be so.

Despite the restrictions, the Mexicans tried to keep the legend alive by setting up offerings and altars, filled with food, drink and sweets, in their homes to receive “their dead.”

The celebration of Day of the Dead is one of the most representative traditions in Mexico and is considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.

OAXACA, MICHOACÁN AND YUCATÁN

In the municipality of Mitla, in the state of Oaxaca, ancestral traditions adapted to the pandemic.

At 12 noon, the dead were received with rockets, which the inhabitants of this town that owes its name to the Nahuatl word Mictlán (“Place of the Dead”), thunder from their houses to show the joy they feel when receiving their loved ones who are no longer with them.

They could not go to the pantheon due to sanitary restrictions, but the symbolism goes beyond this prohibition, because at the foot of each offering of food, drink and fruit, a new mat (palm mat) is placed so that the deceased stay at home, explained Hilda Juárez, a native Zapotec from Mitla, after putting the mat where her deceased will rest.

“We do not have to go out, here at home we are waiting and we feel the air, we feel them because we feel the vibe of them who arrive at 12 o’clock in the day and the pandemic, no, for them there is no pandemic and they arrive because nobody arrives. He put obstacles, and here they are resting on their mat, “he told Efe.

While the inhabitants of Santa María Atzompa, heirs of the cult of the dead that distinguished the Zapotec culture of Monte Albán, suspended their ancestral evening in the cemetery.

On Saturday, the municipal authority only allowed the entry of two people per family to decorate the graves with flowers and candles, and then close the pantheon.

In Michoacán, the Purépecha indigenous people suspended their traditional Night of the Dead ceremony for the first time in their history, due to the pandemic.

The Purépecha, ethnic group with the greatest presence in the western state of Michoacán and which populated the island of Janitzio, in the lake municipality of Pátzcuaro, have placed their offerings in houses where tonight they will await the return of their dead, a celebration that until the year In the past they performed in cemeteries and even with offerings in the most important aquifer in Michoacán.

Dozens of Catholic temples and Purépecha towns closed their doors to tourism, a sector that only between October 31 and November 2 of each year left profits of one million dollars, according to local authorities.

While the General Cemetery of Mérida, Yucatán, looked half-empty when it canceled all the activities that the municipal administration organized annually.

“Never in my 70 years of life have I seen this place so silent, it was always full of life with the coming and going of visitors,” a flower seller told Efe, who lamented the absence of people and the low sales.

But the silence of the Mérida cemetery contrasted with the bustle that was registered in Xoclán, another cemetery in the Yucatecan capital.

In both cemeteries there were rigid sanitary protocols to avoid contagion of SARS-CoV-2, but in the Xoclán there was a “party” for the dead. The graves were adorned with colorful bouquets of flowers and gleamed with candlelight.

On Saturday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador inaugurated a monumental tribute offering in honor of the victims of the pandemic in the country at the National Palace. He also decreed three days of mourning for the same reason with the Mexican flag at half mast and without official acts.

PANDEMIC, CLOSE TO DEATH

For the teacher in Social Sciences and Humanities from the Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), Ulises Adrián Reyes, the Day of the Dead festival in the midst of a pandemic “has to resignify how we Mexicans live this ritual and bring us closer to the idea of death”.

In an interview with Efe, the specialist said that now death is perceived as real because although people “are aware that we are finite beings and we know that we are going to die and the pandemic is a fear that joins this great possibility.”

TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD

In the case of Mexico City, a parade and activities in the 16 municipalities were canceled, but virtual spaces were used to keep tradition alive, such as the Internet site called Ofrenda Infinita.

The objective of the space was to promote the Day of the Dead to remember those who left by making altars and offerings in the houses and share them on social networks through photographs with the hashtag #OfrendaInfinita.

HARD FOR TRADERS

The National Alliance of Small Merchants (ANPEC) estimated that due to the losses due to the cancellation of the celebration in terms of the flower market, bakery, handicrafts, music, among others, “they will be seriously affected”, as they will be damaged in more 70% of your sales.

For them, the covid-19 gave “death” to the celebration

The origin of the Day of the Dead dates from pre-Hispanic times, in a celebration provided with a multicultural character with elements of the Catholic religion brought from Spain and full of various meanings that have been transmitted from generation to generation according to the region of Mexico where are celebrated.









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