Undas is celebrated every Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 in the Philippines in which families visit cemeteries to pay respect to departed loved ones. Some even camp out in cemeteries and bring food to feast.
In Mexico, it’s not much of a difference.
From Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) wherein they make altars to honor their dead.
This tradition dates back to pre-Hispanic times when civilizations such as the Aztecs remembered those who had departed to the underworld, a place ruled by ancient gods. With the arrival of the Spaniards to the American continent, this commemoration acquired Christian tones, until it became the syncretistic event we know today.
As every year, the Embassy of Mexico in the Philippines presents an “Altar de Muertos” to honor the dead in Mexico, the Philippines and around the world.
This year, the Altar de Muertos is dedicated to the Mexican artist Vicente Rojo. Rojo is a painter, sculptor and a writer born in Barcelona in 1932. He was part of the Spanish exile in Mexico where he had a prolific artistic career. His works are recognized nationally and internationally, such as the sculpture “País de Volcanes.”
The Altar de Muertos of the Mexican embassy features skulls or “calaveritas”; the bread of the dead; the salt and the cempasúchil (marigold) flowers, whose characteristic smell is said to please the souls; and the Aztec dog Xoloitzcuintle, which is believed to have the important task of “guiding the spirits back to the underworld.”
The Mexican embassy’s altar also includes tropical fruits from the Philippines and a mat with figures made of colored rice, which is in reference to the widespread Mexican art of creating carpets of flowers or sawdust with allegorical motifs.
The Embassy of Mexico in the Philippines has been organizing a public viewing of its Altar de Muertos since 2018. But as with other events, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to host it in person.
“The commemoration of the Day of the Dead has taken on special importance in these times of pandemic, where sanitary measures have affected the holding of mass events and visits to cemeteries all over the world, which is why the altars of the dead allow us to continue with this tradition and pay homage to those who have passed away,” said the Mexican embassy in a news release.
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