Friday, November 2, 2012
Dia de Los Muertos
In Latin America, this is the day to visit cemeteries where loved ones are buried. Family and friends bring flowers, food, cigarettes, booze, anything the dearly departed may have cherished while here on this earth.
My first experience with this tradition was being dragooned into hauling my girlfriend, her aunts, mother and bratty little nephew all over Panama City one torridly humid November 2nd many years ago. I barely spoke Spanish and they were all shouting directions at me as I gripped the wheel and swerved down narrow passageways past the rusted gates and wrought iron fences of Panama's Baroque boneyards.
Every time I made a wrong turn or passed by an entrance, they would shout louder in the vain hope that volume would overcome the language barrier. All the while little Ray, the pampered brat, was crawling over my seat back, grabbing grimy fistfuls of my hair and hanging from the rear view mirror like a little spider monkey. It was hot, no air conditioning, I was nervous and sweaty because traffic was chaotic and most of the cemeteries were in really bad neighborhoods. My love for Mari was all that kept me from abandoning them car and all.
I was a rat, scurrying through a cobblestone maze to a chorus of incomprehensible babble. This rolling tumult culminated in them accidentally directing me down an extremely narrow dead end street. Panamanians are terrible at directions.
"Turn around!" they cried in a Spanish.
I was in despair of ever getting out. I really would have escaped at that point, but I couldn't get my door open without bumping the house my car was now nuzzled up next to. I backed into a cinderblock house trying to turn around, the whole damned neighborhood was out now, goggling at the crazy, sweaty gringo with a carload of clamorous women and the monkey plastered to the windshield.
"Go forward! Go backwards! Turn the wheel!"
A torrent of perspiration was cascading down my brow, my neck was exhausted from turning this way and that, the steering wheel slippery in my sweaty hands.
Luckily, Panamanians are good-humored people. With the assistance of a crowd of men swarming the car and happily bellowing instructions at the top of their lungs and providing me copious and contradictory hand signals, I somehow managed to turn the old Buick Regal around. No blood no foul on the house I bumped. It looked like it had seen better days anyway.
As I crept back up the narrow street past the wall of bemused faces just inches from my car, a shirtless man standing next to a tin shack looked at me knowingly and handed me a beer through the drivers side window. I thanked him for his sympathy and chugged it down as I made a left turn out of the neighborhood, with Mari, her mama and aunts assailing me with a chorus of "Turn right! Turn right!"
I don't have any pictures of that fateful day, but here are a few of Dia de los Muertos from Otavalo, Ecuador.
Labels: All Souls Day