Insiders Guide - Leonora Rueda
Mexican Ambassador Leonora Rueda says it’s a happy day, when the dead visit the living and many families make paths of marigold petals from the street to a family altar in their homes, so that souls will find their way. In Wellington there will events at the Embassy and a night of Mexican music and performance at San Francisco.
What is the history of Dia de los Muertos?
It’s a mix of traditional prehispanic Indian and Spanish colonial, with religious elements from both cultures.
It is about believing, or the desire to believe, that the soul of our beloved departed ones come to earth to be among us, the living. They are our honoured guests and we offer them the food, drinks or toys they liked when they were alive.
Do you have any specific family traditions?
Generally families get together to mourn their beloved departed relatives and friends, say some prayers (Roman Catholics) and eat traditional food like mole, enchiladas and chilaquiles, drink fruit-flavoured water, beer and tequila. There are no special costumes for this occasion, no dances, just some nostalgic music.
What will you be doing celebrate Dia de los Muertos at the Embassy?
On November 1 we will set up an altar de muertos at the Embassy inviting all Kiwi friends and diplomatic colleagues to the event. We’ll be serving Mexican hot chocolate and Pan de Muerto, or Bread of the Dead. We also have other events on during the week including a film screening at the Crossroad Community Centre on November 6 and a conference on death and loss in Mexican culture at Te Papa.
If you were in Mexico what would you be doing?
I’d be setting up an altar de muertos in my home with more of the traditional fruit, food and flowers that we do not have here in New Zealand. If possible I would visit my beloved deceased family members in the cemetery and take them flowers. Another activity might be to visit the little town of Mixquic where the original traditions are fully enacted at the cemetery.
Do all Mexicans celebrate Dia de los Muertos?
Almost all Mexicans, mainly in the centre and south of the country, celebrate in their traditional way which can vary according to the region.
In Mexico there is the legend that on the day a woman appears, dressed in a long black tunic and veil, crying and asking for her children. We call her La Llorona, The Crying Woman. I hope she does not appear in Wellington!