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Photo by Tom Pablo, Andes & Amazon Semester.

todos santos

The celebration of todos santos began with my host mom bringing my sister and I to the cemetery. The cemetery was at a long procession of festival stand with drinks, so many flowers, cervesas, games for the children, and an overall sense of joy and celebration. I thought it was beautiful that during a time of honoring death, there is overflowing vibrance of life. This i find in other cultures as well, it is a solemn time, but full of vivaciousness to live, to honor those who came before us, to honor those who carried our blood to the earth, and is living in the veins of everything that lives. It was something spectacular to see. The cemetery was decorated with so many flowers one could mistake it as a garden, with flower crows and tassels blowing in the warm breeze. the family next to us had a group of children speaking prayers over the grave of their loved one, another with a small band playing soulful music. The family behind us had cracked open some beers, and the mother was in the middle of spilling her beer over the grave, speaking things under her breath to whom she was honoring. My family set up for a grave of a child that died at 6 years old 20 years ago. There was obviously a lightness because it hadn’t happened recently, but a solemn heart to the actions they performed. They began by decorating everything around and on the grave with vibrant flowers, some of which, the white birds of paradise, came from their very own garden at home and shone brightly, reflecting the heat of the sun. My mother placed numerous plastic crowns on the cross on top of the grave, saying that the colors of blue and white represented the honor of a childs death, and pointed over to a different section at the graveyard where there was a blur of purple and white crowns. She told me those are to honor the adults. I realized there was a huge section for child deaths, and that made my heart cringe. I wondered how many families came there every day to honor a little passed soul. Its so crazy how the littlest souls are the ones who make the greatest losses.

After we placed the flowers on the grave, they took us to a relatives house who was having a party. We sat around the todos santos alter, decorating with drinks, flowers and the favorite foods of the deceased love ones, everybody deep in conversation, laughter, teasing one another, and chewing coca. After about an hour, they started taking apart the alter, giving out the sweet breads that decorated it in massive amounts. We were given bags to put them in and my friend Faith pointed out that it was exactly like halloween. Except with homemade sweet breads! After all the sweet breads were distributed, they drank the liquors that were on the table, dropping one drop of each in front to appease the ancestors. They placed the front table on top of the bottom table face down, someone told me this is a ritual to seal the space they made for the ancestors to visit them, and now to safely return to where they visited from. The grandpa of my host family said a prayer, and everybody ended by doing the holy spirit hand gestures, one to the forehead, heart, left shoulder, right and a kiss on the hand, something I was familiar with from the various times my grandparents have said prayers before a family meal.

Overall it was a beautiful day, and I felt like I learn so so so much.