Willamette World News

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Dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead)

The day of the dead also called “Todos Santos” (All Saints Day) is a traditional Catholic holiday celebrated on November 1st of every year throughout the world. On this holiday, most Bolivians visit cemeteries to honor the dead. According to the Catholic Church, this day the spirits of the dead return to Earth to meet with their relatives, and taste once again the favorite food and drinks they enjoyed when they were alive. On midday of the first of November, the gates of heaven are open, so the dead return to earth, where they will remain until midday of the second of November.

In Bolivia the activities for the day of the dead begin about a week earlier; family members begin to clean the niches and tombs of the deceased. Bricklayers and painters are hired to repaint and repair any that have been damaged; fresh flowers are purchased and bakers start selling the traditional t’antawawas (Quechua word for baby-bread), a sweetbread made into special shapes.

Families and friends of the deceased usually prepare a dining table in their homes; the table is filled with baby-bread (t’antawawas), it also contains fruits, candies, drinks, and of course the picture of the deceased. Then, the family goes to the cemetery taking with them baby-bread, fruits, candies, and drinks (especially alcohol) to offer to the deceased.

In the cemetery poor children sing and pray for the deceased’s soul in exchange for money or food. In the rural areas bones of the deceased will be taken out of the ground in order to give, according to rural people, the “offerings” (baby-bread, fruit, drink-alcohol, and candy) in a more “direct way.”

All saints day is the analogy of the Andean cultures belief; a balance between life and dead. According to Andean cultures, the spirit of the deceased watch over its survivor relatives; the relatives in return must respect and honor the memory of the deceased through the “offerings” every November 1st

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