‘Things to forget’ now give thanks to the dead in Mexico

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption The president spared no expense to hold a celebration for Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which marks the celebration of those who have passed “We will live in…

'Things to forget' now give thanks to the dead in Mexico

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption The president spared no expense to hold a celebration for Mexico’s Day of the Dead, which marks the celebration of those who have passed

“We will live in peace!” “We’ll see you soon!” “It is no use dwelling in sadness. We will recover together!”

A flurry of chattering chihuahuas and cheery bunches of flowers soon rose around the wrought-iron gates of a Mexico City cemetery in the belief that this was their last chance to give a three-day party to their deceased ancestors.

Friday and Saturday were marred by a pandemic of nausea. Today, a cheerfully vibrant “Republic of Day of the Dead” with some of the country’s best actors and top musicians, reeked of 80s Mexico. And more often than not, the chihuahuas, a Mexican animal that’s not really a dog, lapped up the emotion the most.

“That was fantastic,” said a woman on a ladder as she guided an umbrella behind graves laid out for Mexican-Celtic actress Jill Rodenbeck.

For as long as it could be kept in its canisters, she’d spent months in danger of developing pulmonary tuberculosis from the smell.

“It is a privilege to be here. Nobody takes their family to their graves, and here they can feel close to their ancestors.”

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption For long as it could be kept in its canisters, Jill Rodenbeck spent months in danger of developing pulmonary tuberculosis from the smell

It was unusual to see a young family come out of a cemetery and for a same-sex couple to kiss, as they do on Mexico’s loneliest night on Sunday, Corpus Christi.

On that date, both to remember the dead and to celebrate their own living partners, gay couples shared posts on social media to mark the holiday.

“Forgetting is what Mexico does best,” reads the Facebook statuses for couples Antonio Villa, Xavier Lagunas, Vago Torres and Kaia Romero-Perez.

“I’ve wanted a day like this for years,” said the 42-year-old artist. “I wanted a day to remember my brother.”

And he’d found it, even though he wasn’t able to go on the trolley tour and wasn’t able to celebrate for more than a half hour.

Having lived in Mexico for only six months, the photographer decided to do something nice for his dead father, and bring his ashes with him.

“Last year it was a terrible time to celebrate,” he said.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images Image caption There was an unexpected chance to remember the dead during the holiday

“We were scared of infection. My husband has AIDS, my mother is unwell and the family is afraid.”

But today, the family even didn’t have to worry about the sniffles.

“We came on Sunday when the influenza was high,” said Antonio, the youngest.

“You can only transmit it when you sneeze or cough. I don’t care how we die, so long as we stay together.”

Imagined in an age of such fervent hope, what should be a day of dead forgotten, instead makes people think about remembering the living ones that pass through life.

“It is good to remember the dead while we are alive. It is safe for everyone,” Jose Marcial, a professor of sociology at the University of Mexico, told BBC Mundo.

In six decades the dead have died out of passion, celebrity and murder, he says.

“Today there are much greater norms to remember the dead. That’s the main reason why we have parties. But where today there is nostalgia for the dead, there is also a nostalgia for the dead for a new reason: a nostalgia for forgotten things in life.”

Our correspondent Nick Loewen, who grew up watching shows about the dead, says he, too, marvelled to find himself here: in a New York-inspired cemetery as part of the Mexico culture festival.

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