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Day of the Death.

By Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

May 10, 2020

In the white canvas of life there’s only one thing we know for sure: our time in this world is limited.

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I come from a place where we make friends with Death since we are children. Death is a woman, and we think of her in terms of La Catrina, created by Posadas, and made popular thanks to Diego Rivera’s constant depiction of her.

We write poems at school called ‘Calaveritas’ that make fun of this hard to digest moment and replace it with life and laughter. If you can’t beat death, perhaps it’s better to make friends with her, and so we do.

We create altars, and celebrate life by her side. We even call her funny names: La Catrina, Pelona, Calaca tilica y flaca.

We Mexicans make fun of everything, so of course Death is the ultimate butt of the joke. As we joyfully decorate our altars remembering our ancestors, we also realize how closely she walks with us. And so we live, knowing that we will die.

I find peace in this ritual, because I always use this opportunity to explain to my children the unexplainable: I let them know we are not alone, we have our ancestors guiding us always, and when my time comes, I too will come back on a day like this, to spend the night with them in joy and laughter.

The more time I’ve been outside of Mexico, the more I realize that many people don’t have a culture of death: they pretend she’s not there, and they don’t speak about her.

But when the moment comes, we all need that language to understand that it it’s only a part of life.

My first encounter with her was when I was seven years old as I watched my grandfather’s life dissolve in the ocean in front of my eyes. Ever since, through a chain of magical and hard to explain experiences, I‘ve learned we should not fear her, but just hold her hand, the same way we do with life and walk our journeys, looking at her straight in the eye with no fear, but just letting her know we are making the best of the time she gives us in this physical body.

And so the journey continues.

The main picture of this post was taken by Jonathan Klip as part of a project called ‘Entre Catrinas’, showcasing 100 woman who represent Mexico. I’m honored to be a part of it.

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