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Dia de las Muertas
By Tom Pryor

Published July 14, 2006

Mexico’s Dia de las Muertes, or “Day of the Dead,” is a vibrant fusion of European Christianity and pre-Colombian ritual that’s become one of the most iconic festivals in all of the Americas. But while most folks are familiar with the festive skeleton statues dressed as everything from mariachis to Elvis, the holiday is much more than just a South of the Border variant of Halloween.

Celebrated annually at the beginning of November, the festival coincides with the Catholic liturgical calendar’s All Saint’s Day (or Dia de todos santos in Spanish). It’s also integrated into many Mesoamerican traditions, such as the festivities held during the Aztec month of Miccailhuitontli, ritually presided over by the “Lady of the Dead” (Mictecacihuatl), and dedicated to children and the dead. And while Day of the Dead celebrations vary from region to region, they’re always a festive and social occasion, where families honor their ancestors by visiting gravesites and welcoming the souls of the departed back into their homes.

Angela Arziniaga and Everado Rivera, a team of photographers living and working in Mexico, have documented the local Day of the Dead celebrations in the Mexican state of Puebla with these stunning images from the communities of San Gabriel Chilac, Tonanzintla, San Antonio Tlacamilco, Cuetzalan, Calpan, and Atlixco.

Says Angela, “These images talk about the religious syncretism that predominates in the indigenous communities. The cultural diversity is a characteristic of our identity that’s only one small part of our many ethnic manifestations. The day of all dead since the pre-Hispanic times up to now is deeply rooted in the identity and of the indigenous communities of Mexico. This brief selection of images gathers some of the geographical zones of the state of Puebla. These are really relevant because they represent the macrocosm of our national identity and because they still preserve the indigenous and Creole traditions in our modern times.”

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