Friday, November 9, 2012

Dia de los ñatitas

Some celebrations of those who have passed away slip across the calendar and are held a little later than the beginning of November. One such day takes place in Bolivia, a country that looms large in Ghulf history. It was the country of Monique’s foreign exchange year. On this day, in very traditional families, family skulls are decorated with flowers, sometimes dressed up. And a special mass is celebrated in the cemetery of La Paz.

The image I offer here, from Wikipedia (link)—because it is so wondrously, paradoxically attractive—shows figures commonly displayed in Mexico on November 1 and 2. The Bolivian festival goes back to pre-Columbian times and customs in the Andes. It was customary there to revisit the dead in the third year of their passing. Current customs typically only involve the skulls. At these events, in Bolivia, the dead are offered “cigarettes, coca leaves, alcohol, and various other items,” Wikipedia informs me, in thanks for protecting the survivors during the past year. Somewhat reassuring for someone like me who values nicotine—but troubling if it only happens once a year, on November 9.

The day is typically rendered Day of the Skulls. But ñatitas means “snub-noses.” The Spanish for skull is calavera.

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