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Reisverslag 3 Months and still going strong
8 november 2015
3 Months and still going strong
Yesterday I completed my third month here in Mexico and a week ago was the famous Dia de Muertos, so I thought it was again time for a little update.
First of all, I want to say that a couple of days ago, a friend of me did me realize something pretty cool: I don’t translate Spanish sentences to Dutch sentences in my head anymore, I just understand them. Well, mostly… But every time you learn to speak a new language you go through the fase where you translate everything, and after some time, you just don’t need to anymore. So, on my way to the …. Check!
Dia de Muertos
El dia de Muertos is the ancestor of Halloween and takes places on October 31th, and the first two days of November. Mostly celebrated in the South and Central region of Mexico, it is a holiday in which families come together, pray and remember their dead and beloved. It comes with amazing culture, history and traditions and it is of such importance that El dia de Muertos was inscribed in 2008 in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Traditionally, on this day people mostly go with their families to the graveyards of their deceased and decorate the graves with typical flores de muertos, flowers of the dead, (cempazúchitl, the original Tzotzil name) and Day of Dead-food.
But like I said, El dia de Muertos comes with more great traditions. One of these is making Altares in the house, literally altars, with ofrendas, which are like gifts. These altares consist of multiple little tables located in front of each other, in a descending order, to form a stair-like construction. This altar is then decorated with a thousand things!
Flowers, fabric, candy, pan de muertos (a kind of sweet bread), tamales, liquors, different beverages (agua de chia, tazcalate, pozol, coffee, hot chocolate), chocolate, lots of fruits and limes, essences, oils, hot water with a towel, candles, many more and a picture of the deceased person. The myth is then, that on this day the deceased person comes down to earth to this altar down a little path (you will see in the photos that the altars are built in a path-like way).
After their long journey back to Earth, they probably would be hungry and thirsty no? And for this reason the people decorate the altars with all the things I mentioned above, the favourite food/beverage/liquor of the deceased, water and a towel to wash their hands and lots of other things.
All the schools in Mexico on this day organise a kind of competition between groups to make the best altar. So, obviously in my school, we did this too. We made our little altar for a scientist (because we are the science area) and guests from the local museum judged it. Although we did not win the competition, it was a really fun experience for me, and I learned a lot about Mexican culture and traditions. I will attach a picture of our altar in the photos, and also one of a professional altar they make in Mexico City. They’re simply amazing!
And then there is another competition, which always take place in schools: El concurso de Catrinas, the competition of Catrinas. This Catrina is another great example of the wonderful traditions of El dia de Muertos.
La Catrina is probably the most popular and known figure of The day of Dead celebrations in Mexico. She is typically Mexican and I attached a picture of a Catrina, but first I will tell you a bit about her history.
La Calavera Catrina ('Elegant Skull') is a 1910–1913 zinc etching by a famous Mexican cartoon illustrator José Guadalupe Posada. The image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat representing the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her hat is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century. She is offered as a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives who, Posada felt, were aspiring to adopt European traditions in the pre-revolutionary era. She represents the poor people, who although starving to death, want to appear as rich and well-dressed people.
She is the icon of the Mexican Día de muertos and Death.
While Posada invented her, La Catrina really took shape in the hands of an extremely famous Mexican: painter and artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957, husband of Frida Kahlo). If you ever go to Mexico, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo are displayed on the $500 pesos bill.
He displayed her in his super famous work: Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central. I attached a photo of the part of the painting with La Catrina, but I recommend you to take a look at the painting because it is worth a look!
En El dia de Muertos, a lot of people dress themselves up and PAINT themselves as Catrina, or her male variant Catrin, and participate in parades, competitions or simply walk like this in the streets (see pictures). So in our school, there was of course a competition. Every group had to make the best pair of Catrina-Catrin, and of course, I was picked by my classmates (but I actually wanted to be it too).
So it happened that on that day, a make-up artist painted me to a Catrin. And again, we did not win the competition but I thought it was AMAZING! All day long it admired my face in the mirror haha, just look at the pictures because it is really cool!
There is something else I wanted to share with you related to Mexicans. Although there is a whole culture of swearing and curses in Mexico (I have never heard people swear more than here), people are extremely polite in comparison to other countries I have been to. For example:
- You call everyone (except parents and peers) by the formal form of ‘tu’ (you), which is ‘usted’ (comparable to the ‘vous’ in French). This include teachers calling pupils like that, even if they only are in primary school, calling your aunts, grandmothers, uncles and grandfathers like this and just simply everyone, even if they are younger.
- Every time you want to pass through a group of person or you leave a place with people, you say “con permiso’’, which literally means “with your approval”. When you want to pass by someone (even if there is a meter in between you two) or when you leave a restaurant for example you say this little expression. This can also be shortened to “comper” when with friends.
- And for example, like I already mentioned in a previous blog, people invite each other a lot, to buy lunch, something to eat, or dinner. They never split bills, but they expect you to do the same for you one day.
Another thing I have achieved
Like I said at the beginning of this blog, I made a great progress in my Spanish, but after three months of life in Mexico you get to realise something else. There are plenty beautiful things about this country. From its culture, to its food or its nature, there are things you won’t ever find outside this country.
But there are also, like many of you know, ‘less’ pretty things in Mexico.
And I won’t mention which, but first you have to know that this country is HUGE. It has the same area as France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland, United Kingdom and Germany TOGETHER. Just to say that generalizing Mexico or Mexicans from what you see in the news is simply not possible. The differences between regions are huge, from culture, to food, to accent even people’s ancestors.
Then secondly, what I really came to know about all this time I have been here, is that things are not always what they seem. Things aren’t black or white, they are more complicated than they might seem. And this is exactly what they told me in my orientation in Cuautla. After a certain period of time, you will get a deeper understanding of how this country is working and why it isn’t always simply ‘yes or no’ and ‘good or bad’. Things are everything but simple and can’t just be categorized as media often does.
And it hurts the Mexican, to know that everywhere in the world people don’t have this deeper understanding and think about Mexico in a very bad way. They are extremely proud of Mexico, and want the world to know how great this country really is. Unfortunately, media and superficial thinking prohibit this.
Well then, I think I provided you some reading again. Take a look at the picture, and see you later!
Foto's bij verslag (10)
8 november 2015 20:47 | Door: De roturiertjes
Goede uitleg over dia de muertos. En ja na drie maanden ben je echt op weg vloeiend te spreken, wat waarschijnlijk betekent dat je na dit jaar vloeiend kunt spreken wauw. En je hebt gelijk, niets is zwart-wit, dat geldt overal wel een beetje, maar misschien nog wel meer in Mexico.....super ervaringen weer in elk geval :)
9 november 2015 22:08 | Door: Papouné
Voilà encore un blog bien intéressant. Merci on suit bien ton évolution et ton parcours. Très instructif. Par contre on aurait bien aimé avoir une photo de la catrina!
Vivement le prochain épisode
14 november 2015 19:01 | Door: Sonja
Wauw wat een mooi en interessant verslag weer in perfect Engels. Leuk dat je ons allen zo in detail meeneemt in jouw ervaringen. Morgen op verjaardag bij je jarige mams en heb een leuk/toepasselijk kado gekocht:) :) :)
Groetjes en we kijken weer uit naar jouw volgende blog! Xx
16 november 2015 17:39 | Door: Opa Hans
Hoi Nils, weer en geweldig mooi verslag , wat doet beseffen hoe mooi culturen zijn.Je hebt het heel mooi beschreven in zeer goed Engels. Ik had niet anders verwacht dan dat je de Spaanse taal zo snel opneemt!!!! En wat ook een beetje mijn droom was destijds. Nils geniet zo veel mogelijk van je Mexicaans verblijf. Gr. Opa
16 november 2015 19:12 | Door: Roos
Nilsito, wat heb ik weer genoten, zo uitgebreid, alles is helemaal voor te stellen en dan die foto's echt geweldig
16 november 2015 19:22 | Door: Roos
Daar ben ik weer om een reactie te geven, want mijn schrijven is maar deels overgekomen. Een heel mooi verslag en ik merk dat je helemaal in de cultuur zit en je steeds meer een echte Mexicaan gaat voelen. Alle respect dat jij je zo inleeft in dat prachtig groot land. Geniet, geniet , mijn Mexicaantje. Hartelijk dank voor dit zeer interessant schrijven, liefs voor jou van Oma.Oh ja ik vond het leuk dat ik je even zag toen we in Hoorn waren !