The Day of the Dead has no masks. On the contrary, it’s about finding in oneself, what skin does not allow you to see. As if asking, how is your own skeleton? Not with X-Rays, but through a creative and light exercise, this has more expression that your bones are accompanied by your good moments and joys. That is the reason for so much color, flowers and sugar.
In Hispanic popular culture, it is common to see numerous scenes of daily life made with little skulls or skeletons. The little skulls represent diverse activities where death could surprise us: a baker decorating bread, a ballerina, a monk in prayer, or a couple in the midst of their wedding joy. All are windows from which we can perceive the brevity of life. Any moment can be the last.
In some way, like the echo of the proverbs, these figurines remind us that in the flow of human life, any moment may be the last.
From this derives the consciousness of living our present time fully. Death finds us and will always find us. For this reason the skulls are always smiling, asking if we’re ready to go in the middle of any activity and inviting us to fully live the present moment.
Petra Alexander is Director of the Office of Hispanic Affairs in the Diocese of San Bernardino.