Friday, October 24, 2014

Freaky Friday: Author Heby Roman explains the Mexican celebration of "Los Dias De Los Muertos"

Today I'm featuring a guest post by romance author Heby Roman. Her latest release, MIDNIGHT PROMISE, is available now. The backdrop for her prologue is the Mexican celebration of Los Dias de Los Muertos, or "Days of the Dead." I've visited Mexico several times in the last few years and am always fascinated by the "Catrinas" featured in the gift shops. (I may have even purchased a mermaid or two...)

Heby researched the holiday and today she's sharing what she learned!

Los Días de Los Muertos, by Heby Roman

Days of the Dead (Spanish: Los Días de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday observed throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures, particularly in Latin American countries in Central and South America and Spain. The holiday is most widely celebrated in the U.S. in Arizona and to some extent in other southwestern states, where there are large Latino populations.

The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the triduum of Allhallowtide, All Hallows' Eve, Hallowmas, All Saints' Day, and All Souls Day.

Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds (Spanish: cempasúchil), pan de muertos (the bread of the dead); cardboard skeletons; tissue paper decorations; fruit and nuts; incense, and other traditional foods and decorations. In addition, a photograph of the deceased is prominently displayed at the ofrenda. Relatives also visit the graves of their loved ones with gifts, and streets near the cemeteries are filled with cut-out paper decorations (papel picado), flowers, and candy calaveras (skeletons and skulls).

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world, and especially to Central and South American countries. In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones.

More than 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now central Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. A ritual known today as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

The Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations kept skulls as trophies and displayed them during the ritual. The skulls were used to symbolize death and rebirth. The skulls were used to honor the dead, whom the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed came back to visit during the month long ritual.

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, the children make a children's altar to invite the angelitos (spirits of dead children) to come back for a visit. November 1 is All Saints Day, and the adult spirits will come to visit. November 2 is All Souls Day, when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves and tombs of their relatives.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (in Spanish calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas (colloquial term for skeleton), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls as gifts can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.

Today, people don wooden or plastic skull masks called calacas and dance in honor of their deceased relatives. The skull masks today are quite elaborate and beautiful, especially for women. Celebrants wear the masks and dress as skeletons and often parade in the streets, along with observing the other traditional activities.

It might sound morbid, but Mexicans react to death with mourning along with happiness and joy. They look at death with the same fear as any other culture, but there is a difference. They reflect their fear by mocking and living alongside death. Death is apparent in everyday life. It is in art and even in children's toys. Children play "funeral" with toys that are made to represent coffins and undertakers.

Death is laughed at in its face. Many euphemisms are used for death, La calaca (the skeleton), la pelona ("baldy"), la flaca ("skinny"), and la huesada ("bony"). There are refranes, sayings, and poems that are popular with day of the dead. Calaveras (skulls) are decorated with bright colors with the name of the departed inscribed on the head. Children carrying yellow marigolds enjoy the processions to the cemetery. At the cemetery, music is played and dances are made to honor the spirits.

José Guadalupe Posada created a famous print of a figure he called La Calavera Catrina ("The Elegant Skull") as a parody of a Mexican upper-class female. Posada's striking image of a costumed female with a skeleton face has become associated with the Day of the Dead, and Catrina figures often are a prominent part of modern Day of the Dead observances.
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 About the Book:
Julia Flores has dreamed of spending her life with Ruíz Navarro since they were children growing up on the Texas frontier together. When Ruíz goes to fight the war for Texas independence, Julia vows to wait for him.
Ruíz returns home, having lost his father in the war, and he's no longer the innocent boy Julia knew. War has shattered his soul and made him a bitter, cold man. Yet he cannot ignore the raven-haired beauty Julia has become.
Working side by side to save their families' vineyard from foreclosure, they are tormented by an unspoken desire. And as they find their true passion in each other's arms, they cannot deny the powerful destiny that has brought them together. But forces of greed and jealousy surround them, threatening the very dreams they both hold most dear.

buy the book on Amazon:

About the Author:
Hebby Roman is the author of nine print published romances: five historical romances and four contemporary romances. Her first contemporary romance, SUMMER DREAMS, was the launch title for Encanto, a print line featuring Latino romances. Her latest historical romance, published by The Wild Rose Press, is a medieval romance, entitled: THE PRINCESS AND THE TEMPLAR and is available in e-book form as well as printed copies.

Hebby is a member of the Romance Writers of America, and the past president of the local chapter, North Texas Romance Writers. She is a current member of The Yellow Rose chapter. She was selected for the Romantic Times "Texas Author" award, and she won a national Harlequin contest. Her re-published e-book, SUMMER DREAMS, was #1 in Amazon fiction and romance.

She graduated with highest honors from the University of Texas in Austin with a Master's Degree in Business Administration. She was selected for inclusion in the first edition of Who's Who in American Women.

She is blessed to have all her family living close by, including her family's latest edition, a granddaughter, Mackenzie. Hebby lives in Arlington, Texas with her husband, Luis, and maltipoo, Maximillian.