Many have written asking us to share photos and stories from our experiences with the celebration in Mexico known as Dia de Los Muertos, known to many Americans as Day of The Dead.  What I previously thought as only a 1-2 day event celebrating the lives of those who had passed is actually a 4-5 day celebration of food, music, Halloween and personal memorials throughout the cemeteries and towns of Mexico.  My original intent was to capture these events on camera, thinking it was the best way to tell the story.  I came out with a much different feeling, one that made me take a step back, take off my tourist hat, and not be that stranger who only values the festivities for its photo opportunities.  Yes, there was tremendous beauty, but it was much more than that.  It was about respect for the living as well as those who had passed.  Unbeknownst to me, I was to share in the festivities with my own bit of history.

It wasn’t until about a week ago that I let Terry in on a little something.  During our travels, I carry a small picture of my mom and dad from their wedding day from too many years ago.  With it safely tucked away in my riding jacket, I was waiting for the proper moment to share its meaning with my family.  Having had a kiddo in a Spanish-immersion elementary school, our family had learned about Dia de los Muertos and the value the Mexican culture has placed on this holiday.  While most of America considers death a tragic sentence, this culture celebrates the dead, bringing their memories back to life in food, stories and song.  Somehow, I wanted to be a part of this celebration of life.

Terry, Jack and I have spent many weeks riding past many beautiful cemeteries, all the shrines adorned in pictures and wreaths of flowers.  This wasn’t just a day; it was a life event.  All I could think while rolling was, “I have to capture this on camera. What a brilliant pictorial!”  My thoughts would change as the end of October drew closer and the crowds grew larger.  Through even the smallest of towns, the streets outside the cemetery walls were lined with cars, families carrying trays of food to the family site, children trailing along holding flowers and trinkets.  Even the dogs were in on this as they followed along in procession.  “This is like a grand party,” I thought.  “When we land, I’m going to grab the camera and follow along to capture these moments.”  It was after this fleeting thought that I witnessed a single moment that changed my mind.  As we passed the rows of cars and locals directing traffic, I saw to my left two young girls, sitting alone beside a headstone.  They weren’t celebrating.  They weren’t laughing.  They were having a moment alone, heads bowed.  Though I didn’t know what they were saying, I could read what their body clearly.  They were mourning.  This is the moment that changed my course.

Even though I was told by a few that it was okay to walk the cemeteries and photograph the event, I felt otherwise.  I didn’t want to be an observer.  I wanted to be a participant.

It was the afternoon of November 2nd when on a short walk, a flower caught my eye.  A glowing crimson hibiscus bloomed over my shoulder, perfect in color and design.  It was time to celebrate my mom.  Some of you may know my mom passed when I was 19, too young really at any age.  I took out the wedding photo from my pocket and lay it next to the flower, silent in my private moment.  The memory of those two girls remained close by.  That night, we cooked a grand feast with friends, our dessert consisting of looking at maps and Google searches.  This was my celebration.



Friends with Maps
Have I brought the room down too much?  Sorry.  I need to stop doing that!  I will tell you that we walked around Sayulita with our friends, Mike and Shannon, one night during this time, stopping at many of the private memorials setup along the sidewalks.  Okay, I took pictures of those.  Why?  They were such amazing displays of life for all to view with no one around to show us otherwise.  It was another lesson for this Trio – never let the memories of those who have passed fade into a headstone.  Keep them close and allow them to guide us through these tricky lives we lead.  Cheers.