The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico

Overview

All over Mexico, early in November, families gather to welcome the souls of the dead on their annual visit home. The smells of burning copal incense and pungent cempasúchil (marigolds) mingle with the aromas of fresh bread, new clothing, sweets, and candles. One of Mexico's most important festivals since prehispanic times, the Day of the Dead is an occasion for celebrating and feasting, cleaning and decorating graves, dancing and making music.

In this unique work, the authors ...

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Overview

All over Mexico, early in November, families gather to welcome the souls of the dead on their annual visit home. The smells of burning copal incense and pungent cempasúchil (marigolds) mingle with the aromas of fresh bread, new clothing, sweets, and candles. One of Mexico's most important festivals since prehispanic times, the Day of the Dead is an occasion for celebrating and feasting, cleaning and decorating graves, dancing and making music.

In this unique work, the authors explore both the historic origins of this holiday and its colorful present-day celebrations in Mexico and the United States. Interviews with Mexican artists and crafters who provide goods for the festival—from personalized sugar skulls to gigantic papier-mâché skeletons—offer a fascinating glimpse into traditional and contemporary attitudes toward death and the dead.

Lavishly illustrated with color and black-and-white photographs, The Skeleton at the Feast will be required reading for all who are interested in Mexican culture, art, and folklore.

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Editorial Reviews

Hispanic American Historical Review
A handsome addition to the recent literature on this Mexican phenomenon.... The photographs are magnificent.... This volume makes a valuable contribution to the study of both Mexican popular culture and the folk art it has produced. It may also be timely, as one of the interviewees laments the way U.S. Halloween customs are supplanting some of the traditional celebrations in urban centers such as Monterrey and the Federal District.
Booknews
Lavishly illustrated with color and b&w photographs of scenes and artifacts, explores both the current and historical celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico and the US. Much attention is paid to the artisans who make pieces for the festival. Includes a glossary without pronunciations. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780292776586
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 8.71 (w) x 10.84 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Carmichael is curator of the Latin American collections of the British Museum.

Chloë Sayer is the author of several books on Mexico.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Map of Mexico
Foreword by John Mack
Introduction

Part I
The Day of the Dead
The Pre-Hispanic Background
The Spanish Conquest
Travellers' Tales
The Here and Now

Part II: Interviews
Introduction
Fredy Méndez, La Congregación del Tajín, State of Veracruz
Juan Simbrón, La Congregación del Tajín, State of Veracruz
Froylan Martinez Cuenca, Huaquechula, State of Puebla
Candido Reyes Castillo, Huaquechula, State of Puebla
Luis Vivanco, San Salvador Huixcolotla, State of Puebla
Consuelo Garcia Urrutia, Toluca, State of Mexico
Wenceslao Rivas Contreras, Toluca, State of Mexico
María Antonieta Sánchez de Escamilla, Puebla City
Arsacio Vanegas Arroyo, Mexico City
Victor Fosado Vázquez, formerly Mexico City
Appendix: The Day of the Dead in Mixqui by Elizabeth Baquedano Meza

Notes to Part I
Notes to Part II
Glossary
Bibliography
List of illustrations
Index

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