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Día de los Muertos


They carried wash buckets and scrub brushes and hoes to clean the gravesites. They carried flowers, scented candles, chocolate and sugar skulls, marzipan coffins, calacas, pictures, mangos, pan de muertos, tequila, guitars, white-throated calla lilies, shawls, oranges, costumes, cal, pumpkins and much more. Once a year, when the autumn evening carried the musty sent of rotting leaves, they carried ofrendas with symbols of everything their ancestors loved and lived by. They carried paper cutouts, carvings, water and matches. They carried religious medallions and figurines, cast from oro and plata. They carried the things that would lure the dead to unite once more with the living. Gabriela Valencia carried bags of golden petals to guide her mother from a different world. David Huerta, in his new suit and shiny brass buttons, helped carry one of his friends in a coffin, in a mock funeral. Juan Márquez carried his grandmother’s favorite dulce, a Butterfingers candy bar with an orange wrapper that reflected the color of the marigolds under his arms. In one pocket, he carried her bible. The pages now well worn with parables she had taught him to live life by. In the other, he carried paintbrushes. The ones she always kept upright in the broken teacup on her nightstand next to the palate of dried pintura. She had used them as she sat under the hot Mexicali sun to capture the fire in the feathers of the rooster as it strutted around the shredded tortillas from last night’s meal. That rooster now hung on his bedroom wall, as vibrant and alive as the memories of his abuela. They carried their Aztec kings worshiping Mictlantecuhtli, the kind deity who releases humans from the burden of life. They carried the mugre on their shoes—the soil their ancestors had loved. They carried love. They carried hope. They carried happiness. By daylight they shopped and shouted and laughed. At night they sang in the cemetery. Sang for the sake of singing. Sang for the love of life. Sang for the love of death. They carried three thousand years of tradition. They carried the belief that death was not the end of life. But reunion was fleeting, ephemeral, a fluttering veil that could only be lifted this night.




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