September 28, 2015
There are a lot of countries around the world, and every single country has its own culture and traditions. “El dia de los Muertos”, or “Day of the Dead”, is a day that Mexicans celebrate every year. This day is celebrated on October 31st, November 1st, and November 2nd, and this tradition is basically a remembrance of our loved ones to celebrate and honor their lives. In Mexico, people believe that their relatives that are already dead, come back on these days to communicate and visit them. I have lived in the U.S. for eleven years, but I miss my country’s traditions and cultural events, especially this day. I used to do different activities to celebrate the day of Day of the Dead in Mexico. I would meet with my friends, visit my relatives at the cemetery, and cook and eat traditional Mexican food, and share the food with my dead relatives through an ofrenda (an offering). However, I haven’t done all these things since I moved to this country.
In Mexico City, I used to meet with my friends at Plaza Zocalo, which is located in the heart of the city. We would go to Plaza Zocalo with my friends to walk along the streets together, and look at all the skull decorations that the city used to set up everywhere on The Day of the Dead. Skull decorations are plastic human skulls painted with different colors. The skulls are decorated in Mexican traditional clothing, so people put them everywhere on the street as an exhibition. I remember, there was a big street market at the plaza where I used to go shopping with my friends. This street market was really amazing because we could find any kind of traditional objects like paintings, skull art figures, candied skulls, and handmade jewelry. When I was there, I would dress in a skull costume to go with my friends to a street festival where other people also dressed up in skull costumes and danced all night. In Chicago, I do not do all these things with my friends because most of my friends are from other countries with different cultures. Besides that, the weather is usually warm and enjoyable most of the year in Mexico, so I could stay out with my friends until late hours. In Chicago, however, people stay in, and go to sleep early because the weather in early November can be cold.
In addition, when I was in Mexico, I used to go to the cemetery to help my parents decorate their beloved ones’ tombs with flowers. The cemeteries in Mexico City look very different than the tombs in the U.S. I prefered the cemeteries in there because they looked more spooky, and the tombs looked like big rectangle boxes with a cross on the top of them. In Chicago, cemeteries look like a regular and common park where the tombs look like pieces of bricks laying on the ground. In Mexico, people like to decorate the tombs in the cemetery in Day of the Dead, so they can give a good welcome to their relatives’ spirits. My family and I used to bring Mariachis to the cemetery to play and sing along the favorite songs that our dead relatives liked when they were alive. Mariachis are groups of men wearing suits with big hats and musical instruments and they are a tradition part of Mexican culture. In Chicago, I can’t do this because I do not have relatives in the cemetery. I think that If I had deceased relatives here, it would be strange to decorate the tombs with a lot flowers, and also it would feel strange to bring mariachis to the cemetery.
Finally, my favorite part of those days was the food. Every year at that time, I used to cook with my parents a lot of different Mexican traditional food, like mole, sandwiches in shape of skulls, tamales, and special desserts called “pan de muertos” or “bread of the dead”, and candied skulls. Pan de Muertos or Bread of the dead is a sweeten soft bread shaped like a bun with bone-shaped phalange pieces. Candied skulls are decorative or edible skulls made from either sugar or chocolate. In Chicago, my mother and I try to cook some traditional food every year, but the food does not taste as great as it does in Mexico due to the difficulty of finding some Mexican ingredients in the supermarket. In Mexico, my parents and I used to welcome the spirits of our dead relatives by setting up a table that is called “ofrenda”. An ofrenda is a table that is decorated with yellow flower petals and other objects that dead relatives liked when they were alive. I used to set an ofrenda at my house with a lot of traditional food, different kind of fruit, candles, candied skulls, pictures, glasses of water and even shots of tequila. I remember how much fun it was helping my parents to cook that delicious food every year even if it took us a lot of time to prepare it, but I knew it was worth because this was a way to show our deceased relatives that we had never forgotten them. I haven’t cooked that much since I moved to Chicago, so I feel like I’m forgetting my traditional family recipes, especially Dia de los Muertos food.
Living between two cultures and traditions has been very difficult for me, this makes me feel confused and sad. Even though there are other things I can do to celebrate in Chicago, it’s not the same. Even though I have lived in Chicago for eleven years, I still feel like something is missing in my new life because I cannot hang out with my friends, or go to the cemetery. Neither can I cook real Mexican traditional food like I could in Mexico. One thing that I have learned is that life goes on, so I have been trying to adapt myself into the culture of this country that is my new home. I know that Day of the Dead is very different than Halloween, yet I have only celebrated Halloween since I moved to Chicago. Nevertheless, I appreciate my new life in this norther city in the U.S.