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By Stanley Brandes

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Additional resources for Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond

Sample text

If we turn north of Mesoamerica to the pueblos of New Mexico, there exists convincing evidence of parallels with Mexico and Bolivia. ” At each threshold, they made the sign of the cross and received presents of food—usually bread or meat—from the residents. According to Parsons, too, at Acoma pueblo, which is more observant of Roman Catholicism than is Zuñi, food was taken to the cemetery and placed around the foot of the cross marking each grave. In the pueblo of Laguna, November 2 was called shuma sashti (“skeleton day”).

Sahagún, whom some scholars see as a “pioneer ethnographer” (Klor de Alva, Nicholson, and Quiñones 1988), tells us that the Aztecs fashioned sacred images out of wood, which they covered with tzoalli, or amaranth seed [Amaranthus hypocondriacus] dough. The dough was shaped anthropomorphically. Take as an example Sahagún’s account of what the Aztecs did with a tzoalli image of the great deity Uitzilopochtli during Panquetzalitzli, the fifteenth month of the Aztec calendar (Sahagún 1978, Book 3:5–6): And when he died, thereupon they broke up his body, the amaranth seed dough.

In Mizquic, famous throughout Mexico for particularly elaborate Day of the Dead celebrations, food offerings include “tamales, oranges, sugarcane, bananas, different types of pan de muerto, salt, water, candy, corn on the cob, lard, atole [a corn gruel drink], squash, tejocotes [a small, yellow, plum-like fruit], lemons, sugar, chocolate, mole, cinnamon, corn kernels, tangerines, tall candles [cirios], votive candles, and flowers. Among the Mizquic offerings, too, figure rum, pulque, and bunches of fresh herbs” (Ochoa Zazueta 1974:96).

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