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Billie Mercer | profile | all galleries >> Galleries >> The Days of the Dead, 2005 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Days of the Dead, 2005

These images were taken in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on November 1st and 2nd.
The walk to the cemetery from the main road, Ancha de San Antonio, is about 1/4 of a mile but the way was lined with vendors of flowers, food cooked on grills, colorful glasses and fruit drinks, cans and vases for the flowers, tanker trucks bringing extra water, pots and pans. Young boys are everywhere with colored pails and shovels looking for potential customers so they can help clean the graves and earn a few pesos.

There are awnings over the vendor's stalls of all colors strung just above heads from one side of the road to the other. And the road is filled with people coming and going to the cemetery. Stopping to buy flowers and cans to put their flowers in for the graves. Friends stop to talk. The poor come with flowers from their garden. After taking care of the graves and putting out flowers many of them stop at the food and drink stalls for some refreshment. But the amazing thing is that the road and the cemetery is quiet. Quiet like a library. Even the young boys there to earn a few pesos speak quietly when they do their usual boy thing of jostling each other. There are no loud voices except for a few American voices that continue to talk at their normal tone.

Families come....women with flowers in one arm, a small child by the hand in the other arm. Dad with a shovel or paint can and brush or pail of water. Stops at the grave of grandparents, then on to the grave of a Mother or Father then maybe a tiny child. The families sit and talk or maybe the Grandmother takes the children on a "tour" talking about the graves of family and friends.

Putting out flowers in the cemetery started on the 31st and by the evening of the 2nd, the cemetery is an amazing blaze of color and smells. The sharp smell of the marigold mingles with the smell of lilies and roses. Marigold orange, magenta cockscomb, white mums, every color zinnia, pink lilies--intense color everywhere. The setting sun outlines the gravemarkers and deepens the colors of the flowers. As it grows later in the afternoon, there is a priest in white robes reading with a family, some families have guitars and are singing softly by the graveside and some have hired rancheros to play and sing with rough voices just a little off key.

As the sun sets the civil proteccion policia start to tell people it is time to leave. The cemetery will be locked for the night. I know that there are cemeteries in Mexico where bus loads of tourist arrive to tromp around the candle lit graves and take pictures of the families during the night but I can't imagine anything sweeter and more touching than what happens here in San Miguel de Allende.
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