Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Neglected Duties - The Cemetery Events of Francisco I. Madero Ejido for All Saints'

    During our last episode down at the Quinta we went through that period of the celebration of All Souls and All Saints.   Normally, at this time, throughout Mexico there is considerable activity centring around the cemeteries.   Especially on the nights that unite the 1st of November with the 2nd and the 2nd of November with the third one might find established cemeteries crowded almost shoulder to shoulder with the descendants, direct and collateral, who are among the Quick, visiting with their forbearers who are among  the Dead.
     While urban cemeteries are frequently continuously tended at some level or another, and can be quite elaborate, the rural cemeteries are cared for on a quarterly basis by a committee of the ejido or, in the case of an incorporated small town, a local department that oversees the "Panteon Municipal".    During the period about a fortnight before All Saints, the official and semi-official authorities will deploy "fatigas" to clean out the cemeteries of litter, overgrowth of weeds and grass, bottles, cans, and any other insults to the aesthetics of the "Campo Santo" (Holy Ground). 
     Families are also involved.   They will go an tend to graves, repainting, cleaning, straightening, and generally returning everything to as "new" an appearance as possible.   Those who live in the community are charged a share of the community "fatiga" whether they have anybody living in the cemetery or not.  In other words, all adults and/or family units pay, and in the case El Gringo Viejo, this time it was just the standard 75 pesos / quarter that normally pertains to the matter.
     During the two overnight periods, and during the daylight periods as well, there might be two or three thousand people come an visit where there are 200 crypts and single graves.   The leaving of a "corona" artificial flower remembrance is very common, although other artificial flower arrangements are also numerous.  Even a common cemetery such as ours will be all but covered up with these gifts to the departed.   Normally large groupings of descendants and friends of the dead fellow living in the cemetery will be seen huddling, hovering, and standing around...perhaps even sitting on the grave covering "lapida" (long, rectangular, stone).....where beer, tequila, brandy,  various foods and fruits favoured by the departed, pictures of other departed relatives of the departed, votive candles, and perhaps even a few fresh flowers (not in water bearing vases).
     Vases or water bearing vessels of any kind are prohibited because of the long standing laws, rules, and prohibitions in force against the spread of Dengue Fever, a brother of Malaria.

     Our problem, it must be confessed, on this particular episode of the celebration of the "Dia de los Muertos" was that there was a dank, cold drizzle both nights.   The temperature was in the mid-forties, it was foggy, sloppy, and miserable,    (Sorry AlGore).  So, each time El Gringo Viejo arrived at the Panteon del Ejido, it was totally dark, no votives, no flash lights, no hurricane lanterns, no subdued, somewhat happy crowds of people bearing gifts to their departed.   It really was just miserable, especially for a people accustomed to living on the Tropic of Cancer.  Early November is just far too early to take the children and the women out into such elements.
     El Gringo Viejo was grumpy about the meteorological turn of events and hardened his heart against reporting about the traditional celebration, but after visiting on the morning of the 3rd of November, it was noticed that considerable effort had been made to at least make the people who live in the cemetery happy that their people came and expended said effort on behalf of their ancestors.  So, these pictures were made on that bright and cheerful morning.   Please note that the "Coronas" are the generally circular, artificial arrangements that are wrapped in a very heavy cellophane covering.  They are expensive, ranging from 200 to 500 pesos each (15 - 40 USD plus or minus).  

     Please forgive my lack of compliance and tardiness in the reporting of this significant event in the calendar of the Mexican experience.
El Gringo Viejo