The graveyard was ablaze with flowers, full of music, and alive with people. Families gathered, smiling and hugging, laughing children ran and chased around the gravestones, and old people sat in lawn chairs on the faded grass. Most of the plots of earth were grown over but a couple had mounds of freshly turned earth. At every grave was an offering of food—fruit, candy, sweet bread—and vibrant blooms, freshly cut long-stems in vases, or colorful handfuls nestled in warm terracotta.
All week long I’d seen the trucks driving through our neighboring town of Loreto, their beds piled high with flowers. Now it all made sense—The Day of the Dead. It was like Easter and Valentine’s Day all rolled together. Armfuls of irises and calla lilies were paraded by me into the tiny cemetery—as if the overflowing grounds needed another dozen bouquets.
I was sitting near a family who had set up temporary home in a large cement crypt, music blaring from their communal boom-box. The dad laid out enticing meals at various ancestors markers, while the mother and daughters arranged greens, ferns, and stalks of hothouse blooms. The smallest children decorated any unadorned surfaces with gingerbread pigs, white sugar skulls, and sparkling pan dulce.
Just as the music, conversation, and laughter reached a crescendo, I saw a group of tourists enter, cameras held chest high like tiny shields. Whispers hissed, flashes blinked, and tiny motors whirred. They captured mementoes of “the charming scene”—at the same time as they ruined it. Their patronizing glances, their very presence, leached the wholesomeness from every motive and gesture. Suddenly, the crowd’s behavior seemed quaintly medieval, and somehow even morbid—like Halloween.
Causes Jennifer Redmond Supports
KPBS, Foundation for Change, ProPeninsula, Anza-Borrego Foundation, Marriage Equality USA