WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead – Part Three

Preparing the graves for Día de los Difuntos. El Tejar cemetery, Quito, Ecuador. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Preparing the graves for Día de los Difuntos. El Tejar cemetery, Quito, Ecuador. photo © Lorraine Caputo

1 NovemberAll Saints Day

DAY OF THE DEAD RAIN

Rain falls off the roofs

in cascades,

Rain moves across the street

like ocean waves.

 

A yellow dog stops

in the middle of the road,

looks around bewildered.

 

Beneath a bright green umbrella,

a mother cradles her child on her hip,

carries a plastic bucket with flowers.

 

The wind dies

for a moment …

the scents of marigolds

mums, gladioli drift by …

 

Signs swing,

their hollow tin-clang

is carried away.

 

Children huddle beneath

the roof eaves of the tortillería.

The smell of fresh tortillas

is lost on the strong wind.

 

Three piglets

trot across a dirt lot

seeking shelter from the storm.

Lightning slices the sky

like disappearing scars …

 

 

This morning

I found a dead scorpion

in the bath water.

 

Today

Families will carry the buckets filled with gladioli,

mums & marigolds to the cemeteries.

They will pull the weeds from the graves,

carefully place wreaths of paper & those flowers.

 

Tonight

The brujos will wander these streets—

everything will be closed against their presence.

Teenage students will disguise themselves

stop anyone out, demand money—or assault them.

 

 

Two teenage girls, huddled under a yellow tarp,

their sandals kicking up rain from the road,

carry home hot tortillas wrapped in pink paper.

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

The German community in Osorno (in the Lake District of Chile) has its own graveyard, called Cemeterio Alemán. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The German community in Osorno (in the Lake District of Chile) has its own graveyard, called Cemeterio Alemán. photo © Lorraine Caputo

2 November – All Soul’s Day, Día de los Difuntos

GALÁPAGOS SKETCHES

Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz

The morning dawns with a rain. Not really a rain rain, not really a garúa rain. Something in between. It ends & the day grows humid as we enter this four-day weekend. Today is Día de los Difuntos — Day of the Dead — & tomorrow the city of Cuenca’s Independence Day.
The woman who runs the dry-goods store at the station told me the mass will be at 10 a.m. in the cemetery; she’ll be there to clean her mother-in-law’s tomb.

(How do traditions transfer to a new place, a place without indigenous or native human populations, is one Galapagan facet that has been fascinating me.)

The cemetery is surrounded by a white wall that flows like the sea. Sometimes the stuccoed waves part to reveal a bit of the world within. On the street out front the graveyard gate, vendors are displaying wreaths of plastic & foil flowers, silk bouquets, candles, packs of palo santo incense. Others are just beginning to set up, to hoist blue tarps against the still-cloudy sky.

Within the undulating walls, tombs are being whitewashed. The black lettering of names, of dates is being freshened with a steady (or sometimes trembling, but loving) hand. The perfume of paint drapes in the humid breeze.

In front of one grave, always barefoot, always bare-chested Lobo Marino (so he calls himself) is standing with others with a family from the mainland Sierra. The woman wears a length of dark velvet wrapped around her waist & tied off with a faja, in the traditional way. A pinned-back dark-blue cloth upon her head hides her hair, many ropes of golden beads drapes her neck. The man has his greying hair pulled back in a pigtail; indigenous cloth sandals cover his feet. Their heads are bowed. He looks up & cries, What he would want, what we need is music to give him!

(How does this new species, Homo sapiens, adapt to its new environment? What traditions are continued? How are they adapted to a new environment? Cultural adaptation, cultural evolution.)

 

With a damp rag, man wipes the dust from that tiled tomb there. With a leafy branch, a woman brushes the dirt from this one near the mound of rocks upon which I sit. The bouquets are placed, the wreaths hung on simple gravestone crosses. Candles are lit. The flames dance, perhaps extinguishing in the breeze reviving, dancing, disappearing.

I share cookies with two children & their mother visiting her husband’s tomb. A small basket of overflowing with purple, orange, pink silk flowers leafed in plastic rests in front his name. She stoops to light a single taper. They leave e’er the mass begins.

The altar beneath a tree has been spread with a white lace-trimmed cloth. A man strums a guitar. The purple-albed priest calls those present for the Eucharist. The small choir begins to sing.

Other families arrive during the mass, setting to the task of cleaning & decorating of these final resting places. The adults — wives or husbands, sons or daughters — are seriously intent. The children look ‘round. Some seem a bit lost in these Day of the Dead traditions, some of them seem bored.

In front of a gayly painted tomb is the family of Ozumi. The size of this monument belies the infant cradled within. Mami’s, Papi’s & her siblings’ handprints decorate the sides. The bougainvillea harbor shades them from this tropical sun flickering through the clouds. & here I am, yet perched atop this mound of rocks partly buried beneath faded plastic, foil, silk flowers. A garishly blushed female lava lizard rustles the leaves. Fnches peck through the brush at my feet. The wind rises for a moment, seeming to beckon another shower this morning. A solidifying river of wax now anchors that candle to that wife’s, those children’s loved one’s grave. The flame yet fades, yet revives in the closing morn.

After sunset I return. The tide washes, washes only several hundred feet away. Outside the cemetery, on benches & curbs, a family shares their repast.

I stop at a stall still set up outside the cemetery gate. No, the woman says in a quiet voice, the guagua de pan is all gone. I sip a colada morada as I enter the yard, chewing on the chunks of pineapple, spitting the spicy clove seeds into my hand.

Many more graves are brighter under the haze of a three-quarter-full moon. In the sheltered niches of tomb façades, candles waltz & bow on a gusting breeze. Murmurs of families drift through the worn twilight. Beyond row & row of sites, glasses clink against a bottle. A child’s chuckling laugh further beyond. & singing.

A family of women stands at one monument near the front wall. I promise, I promise her I shall finally…, says one. A sea of tears washes her face shadowed by moon, by clouds, by candlelight. She then strokes the façade, strokes the newly blacked letters before crossing herself & steeping beyond the gate into the new night.

text © Lorraine Caputo

At the end of South America, on the Strait of Magellan, is another one of Latin America’s most beautiful cemeteries, that of Punta Arenas, Chile. photo © Lorraine Caputo

At the end of South America, on the Strait of Magellan, is another one of Latin America’s most beautiful cemeteries, that of Punta Arenas, Chile. photo © Lorraine Caputo

3 November

Though for most locales the holiday ended 2 November, in Coroico, Bolivia (96 kilometers from La Paz), it is just beginning.

No-one knows precisely why this village on the edge of the Nor Yungas jungle celebrates El Día de los Muertos on 3 – 4 November. But on those days, you’ll hear the revelry echoing up the road into town, all day and throughout the night.

On 8 November, in La Paz’ Cementerio General, Día de las Ñatitas

is observed.

So, let’s head down to Coroico to celebrate El Día de los Muertos with them.

¡Buen viaje!

DYING YUNGAS MOON

I.

The near-full moonlight

seeps through quilted clouds

raveling, revealing

a pure-white orb.

 

 

II.

The dusk thunder that

had rolled through these

deep jungle valleys

has silenced.

Its lightning still pulses white

from cloud

to cloud.

The eclipsing moon now

& again glimpsed

through the seams

of this night’s sky.

 

Until she is smothered

beneath a shower.

 

 

III.

All Soul’s Eve

I pirouette beneath

the waning moon,

a brilliant pearl

nested upon

rent cotton-wool clouds

silhouetted midnight blue,

billowing towards

the Amazon.

 

 

IV.

In the dead hours

On the Día de los Muertos

waifly fog drifts

through the village.

Phantom palm trees sway

in their swift

passage.

The moon, the stars,

the mountains invisible.

 

& once departed,

the light of this near-half moon

reveals mountain

silhouettes.

To the solitary song

of a cricket,

higher clouds

slowly thread

scant clouds.

 

 

V.

Lightning & thunder vibrate

through the cloud-

veiled sky

of stars &

half-moon.

The valleys, the

cobbles streets

echo with the music

of villagers feasting

with the dead.

 

poem © Lorraine Caputo

The grave of Rachel Parodi Hulerig in the lot where her home once stood; she instantly killed during the in 2007 Pisco (Peru). Depending on the resources of a family, a person may be buried at the spot where she was killed. In other cases (such as road accidents), a “spirit house” will be built or a simple cross placed commemorating the moment and place the family’s loved one was killed. photo © Lorraine Caputo

The grave of Rachel Parodi Hulerig in the lot where her home once stood; she instantly killed during the in 2007 Pisco (Peru). Depending on the resources of a family, a person may be buried at the spot where she was killed. In other cases (such as road accidents), a “spirit house” will be built or a simple cross placed commemorating the moment and place the family’s loved one was killed. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Advertisements

One thought on “WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead – Part Three

  1. Pingback: WHEN THE VEILS PART : Honoring Our Dead | latin america wanderer

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s