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The day of the death in Mexico’s community program

Summary Playa del Carmen hub helped out on various activities on the Day of the Dead celebrations. The general objective of Save the Children in Mexico is to “generate and promote a broad movement of cultural transformation in favo ur and with the participation of Mexican children”. The GVI Mexico community hub is aware of this objective and is supporting their cultural activities as a manner to preserve traditions in Mexican families. Report On November 1st and 2nd, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead, the day in which the living remember their departed relatives. To the indigenous peoples of Mexico, death was considered the passage to a new life. Much like when you go to a graveyard to leave some lovely flowers on a tomb of a relative, Mexicans leave a beautiful ritual in which they happily and lovingly remember their loved relatives that have died. Sometimes, when people of other cultures hear for the first time about the celebration of the Day of the Dead, they mistakenly think it must be: gruesome, terrifying, scary, ugly and sad; it’s nothing further from the truth. The essence of this beautiful ritual is to lovingly and happily remember the dead relatives, their life, and in this way, give meaning and continuity to human existence. Specifically, they believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. There is nothing somber or macabre about the event. The dead come as spirits from another world to be with their living relatives and to visit in their homes. They do not come to scare or haunt as we believe Halloween spirits do. Also, unlike the customs of Halloween when children shout “trick or treat” and try to terrify each other, Mexican children are at home helping with the many preparations for the day. In order to support the preservation of Mexican costumes within the new generations and to reinforce their cultural identity, GVI Playa participated, alongside the children of Playa del Carmen, at the festivities of Day of the Dead. On the 29th October volunteers and staff took the children from the Ludoteca (toy library) down to 5th Avenue to march. They walked down 15 blocks on this tourist street singing the Xtabay song. As Playa Del Carmen is a big tourist area there were countless

Figure 1. Intern Gerogie with masked children on the 5th Av during the day of the death march

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people lined up along the streets cheering them on. Hundreds of people participated in the march including kids from different Ludotecas and schools in the area a ll dressed up in white with and handcrafted Day of the Dead face masks. On November 1st, celebrating the angelitos, 33 children from the Ludoteca were taken to the Xcaret theme park. Xcaret is one of the Ludoteca ’s sponsors who give these kids amazing opportunities to visit the park and to really get involved and experience the rich culture of Day of the Dead. For four days Xcaret ran a special Day of the Dead festival for everyone in Playa del Carmen to celebrate. At the festival, the children participated in some educational activities ran by its friendly staff, including Day of the Dead face painting, making soap, participating in a short play, learning the Campechan traditional dance, making paper symmetrical banners and learning some sign language. Although the Day of the Dead in Mexico has this public aspect, at the community level it is essentially a private or family feast. The core of the celebration is within the family home. These days are a beautiful reminder, especially to those not accustomed to this cultural ritual, that death is not something to be feared. Death is simply an inevitable part of our existence. Every life is given to better the lives of others; no one is insignificant, no one is forgotten. Day of the Dead is a grand celebration of life itself – even when there is no physical presence, their spirits are happily welcomed back and thought of fondly.

Figure 2. Intern Georgie and face painted staff Christie showing art crafts at Xcaret

Figure 3. Children in an art craft workshop at Xcaret

If you would like to know more about the community programmes in Playa del Carmen, check out http://www.gvi.co.uk/programs/volunteer-childcare-projects-mexico References: http://www.inside- mexico.com/featuredead.htm viewed 13/11/2013 http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/support/dodhistory.html viewed 13/11/13 http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/chngmexico/210 viewed 13/11/13

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