During a visit to Mesilla, New Mexico earlier this month, I stood in the old Plaza, a national landmark where Apache Raiders came and went, where the Gadsen Purchase took place and where calaveras dance into the night celebrating Dia De Los Muertos. We were but a blink away from Juarez, and the air smelled of Mexico: mezcal and chile and the glimmer of a culture built on the border of not only two physical landscapes but two realms: the fantastical and the mortal. There were times when the two merged so gently, that a lovingly terrified New Yorker might wonder if they were dreaming. I was walking down the Calles, mid-day, wandering from the center of town and all its little shops. Everywhere, in windows and in doorways was The Magia: calacas and papel picado and cempazuchitl (marigolds). These stood side by side with saints whose shrines were just as beautiful and present. In this way, most of America's fears of death and their execution of Halloween are sorrowfully confused; the America with which I am familiar is praying for salvation from ghosts and spirits, where in Mesilla and in much of the world, these spirits are welcome. They are given ofrendas (alters) and are called upon, loved. This is to say the veil between the worlds is truly open on November 1 and 2 (All Souls Day and All Saints Day). I was pulled down a long stretch of dusty street where adobe constructs stood perfectly with all their curves and little flower beds. What I found in the serendipity was the bookstore of Denise Chávez, one of the leading Chicana writers of the Southwest and una mujer mágica; she was glowing and told me of her writing and her perception of border culture. She looked at me with dark eyes and said to me, as if I were a child being told a secret: "You are in Mexico." She took my hands, gave me dark coffee, spoke of how when she forgets beauty for just a moment, she looks outside at the mountains. She told me she was having a Dia De Los Muertos Sugar Skull Decorating Workshop, and the little children who came in overheard and stood mesmerized at her words. She spoke in perfect español. I told her I was from New York, and felt a twinge of sorrow. I couldn't be there, lo siento. I stood trying to understand her Spanish, in love with the words and the brilliant bloodiness and humanness in the inflection. This same bloodiness decorated the little plaza during the night, pulsing as if the place was a body. My lover and I walked into El Patio Cantina later that night knowing where we really were: in Mexico. We were attending a Catrin y Catrina fiesta, a celebration of Muerte, or death. Catrina, an icon representing wealth, was painted by José Guadalupe Posada, and her lover, Catrin (for all intents and purposes) were thought of as wealthy and beautiful, but, as the townspeople continually told me, "could never escape death." So we dressed in black and I put flowers in my hair and we crept through the town at night into the Cantina to see the townspeople of Mesilla, Mesilleroes, dressed as Calaveras, their faces painted in black with wide dark eyes. Women wore long gowns that swirled in Muerte's cold breath against their Catrin's, doing the congo through the bar, pierna izquierda, pierna derecha, pierna izquierda, pierna derecha until the end of the night. We visited the Galeria Azul the next day, alive with the death that we had celebrated. We took some little "Muerte" postcards to the register, happy enough to see a commercial acknowledgement of something so magical, and the shopowner looked at us and said, "I don't know why anyone would be afraid of the dead. You should be afraid of the living!" This sentiment is shared by everyone there: morbidity isn't the goal. Fright is left for other cultures, for the people who see ghosts in their dreams as enemies and not as amigas y amigos. Here, we had a glass of wine at the little Vino shop where tabletops are decorated in wine bottles painted with skulls, and we asked the locals what it is they love about living on the border. We asked them about Death and Life, spoken of as celebrities. "We celebrate Dia De Los Muertos because life and death are one and the same. You cannot have one without the other," they said. Then they told us to visit the cemetery, right down Calle De Guadalupe. We bought some chocolate and coffee and visited the Mesilla cemetery, where many graves were covered in gifts, ribbon, flowers. Some had entire alters. I felt jealous for the dead back home. Some graves were topped with wooden crosses, standing barren atop dirt; these were nameless dead, the poor. If you shut your eyes, you could see the spirits dancing here in the daytime - those with names we know and those without, a playground all the same. And now, back home in New York, haunted, the 'fantastical' and the 'mortal' have become one.