Ambassador, what is Día de Muertos and why are the reasons for celebrating it in Bucharest?
Día de Muertos (Day of The Dead) is one of the most significant and vibrant traditions of Mexico, a living expression of the syncretism between the Pagan rites of the ancestral civilizations which inhabited the Americas and the devout Catholicism, which was brought by the Spanish crown and remains a predominant element of the Mexican culture.
Contrary to the literal translation, Día de Muertos is a celebration of life. It is a day in which Mexicans remember those who passed away, not with sorrow but with joy; a day where families come together around the altars and cemeteries, drinking and sharing tequila or mezcal, praying and singing while cooking the favorite dishes of those relatives who died and whose spirits are believed to return for this one day a year, to enjoy the aromas of a world no longer theirs.
The festivity was incorporated in the List of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003 and has different manifestations throughout the various states and regions of Mexico. We wanted to bring to Romania a taste of its colors and flavors, in the aim of bringing our peoples together, through culture.
Would you care to elaborate on what would this event consist on?
Yes, of course. In collaboration with UNAgaleria and with the generous contributions of Patrón, Corona, El Torito and VINARTE, the Mexican Embassy is preparing a big fiesta on November 2nd at 18:30 in UNAgaleria (10 Constantin Budisteanu).
The focal point will be an Altar de Muertos (Altar of the Dead) dedicated to personalities of Mexico and Romania who left us during the last year. It will be complemented with an exhibition of photographs and paintings reflecting the various ways Mexicans honor their dead with special clothing, face painting and offerings.
The photographic exhibition is a selection of the awarded images of a competition organized by the National Council for Culture and Art from Mexico, attended by 689 photographers, with 2,413 photos taken in 25 states of the country. The selection that we will see in Bucharest consists of 26 photographs divided into three themes: Markets and Fairs, Altars and Offerings, Music and Dance. Through these images we want to promote, encourage and strengthen the cultural ties between our countries.
The painting exhibition is an assortment of the works of a passionate Mexican artist who lives in Bucharest, Julio Cesar Rivera, who presented his first exhibition in Romania last summer Miradas de México (August 4th).
One last element of the evening will be the screening of animation film The Book of Life which Romanians had the opportunity to watch this year at the Latin American Film Festival Película (September 14th -18th).
Many civilizations honor their dead with different rites, but could you explain to us what are the unique features of the Altar de Muertos?
Indeed, almost all cultures around the world have rites and rituals surrounding death. Yet, only in Mexico we make edible skulls out of chocolate, sugar or amaranth. The skull is turned into a sweet reminder of the fact that life is ephemeral and that we all carry a skeleton inside our bodies.
Día de Muertos is one of the most important rituals of the year in Mexico, and its most concrete expression is the Altar, which, as I said, is the result of religious syncretism.
It is based on the belief that once a year, guided by the light of the candles, the souls return from the underworld to reencounter with their family members. Copal and incense are used to purify the environment and sanctify the place, while the yellow cempazúchitl or Mexican marigold flowers decorate the table perfumed by the aromas of life.
On the table, a glass of water deters evil spirits and awaits its visitors hoping to quench their thirst after the long journey. It is also common to put on the table a mélange of the person’s favorite meals and drinks. For example, clay pots filled with rice and beans, chocolate, the traditional sugared bread and a pack of cigarettes. If the deceased liked to drink, alcoholic beverages are offered as well: beer or a glass of tequila or mezcal (a drink made in Oaxaca from the agave plant).
It seems to be a very interesting cultural evening; where can we find more information regarding the event?
It is a celebration full of symbolism and we are certain that it will be a unique experience for the all the visitors, especially considering that the exhibition will be open to the public until November 10.
For more information, please check the Embassy’s website: