Regarding El Baratillo, my local Mexican friend say:
"That market has a reputation for selling stolen merchandise."
"That could be the last thing you do. Not in Guadalajara. I mean, ever."
"It's not that everyone that goes their dies, but..."
"It's not safe for a blue-eyed gringo like you."
Needless to say, I have no interest in getting robbed, beaten, or killed during my last weekend in Guadalajara. The likelihood that something would happen is minimal, but when the locals say it's not a good idea, I'm going to heed their advice. Instead, I opted to accompany a handful of my coworkers on one last outing yesterday, my final day at work.
Día de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) will occur at the beginning of November and Mercado del Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead Market) has opened in anticipation of the big event. Our current CLO office (who, I like to stress, is not responsible for the sketchy Top 20 list) organized this excursion so that consulate families could experience the market and stock up on decorations.
We arrived in Guadalajara the week after 2010's Day of the Dead celebration. Last year, we were on vacation out of the country. And this year, due to scheduling demands back at the Foreign Service Institute, we will be leaving Mexico the week before. I'm happy to have the opportunity to visit this market, because this is one holiday I've been, pardon the pun, dying to blog about.
The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday (though it is celebrated around the world by various cultures) that focuses on gathering friends and family to pray for and remember loved ones that have died.
People will visit cemeteries to spend time with the souls of the departed. They will build altars in their homes and fill them with photos, mementos, and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased, all to encourage visitation by the loved one's spirit. Toys are bought for dead children, bottles of tequila for adults.
Sugar skulls adorn the altars and provide sweet treats for the living. Figures of the skeletal remains of a well-dressed woman act as the primary mascot of the Day of the Dead, these women, known as Catrinas, are based on a 1929 zinc etching by José Guadalupe Posada, known as La Calavera Catrina ('The Elegant Skull').
Catrinas can be found in all shapes and sizes. Guadalajara typically chooses a theme and then sculptures invade the city centers. Last year, the Catrinas had a Pan American Games theme, with all skeletons caught up in some sort of sporting event. In this particular market, these tiny ornamental Catrinas dominated the scene.
When we arrive in Jerusalem and have our house set up, I'll share pictures of all of our Mexican art and knick-knacks, among them two beautiful Catrinas that we picked up along the way, and a couple of items I grabbed at the market yesterday. Yes, I know that will be a long wait, but I'm excited to share nonetheless. Once upon a time, I wondered whether or not moving every couple of years and living in government housing would allow for creating a unique and personal living space, and I am pleased to report that it is entirely possible. Each new assignment will enhance that space, and I can' wait to share it with you. I could do it now, but I like the notion of revisiting Mexico with you sometime. Plus, we plan to paint the walls in Jerusalem, so those photos will be much prettier than what I could manage now on the standard white.
Foreign Service life is really quite cyclical in that you end your post where you began: Personal effects en route somewhere, sleeping on government-provided mattresses, internet and phone accounts cancelled, and sitting at Starbucks updating your blog. Or maybe that's just me. Either way, today I''m typing at you while enjoying an Iced Caramel Mocha, Starbucks Mexico's 10th anniversary beverage, and a big loaf of Pan de Muerto, the official bread of the Day of the Dead. The ridges along the top are supposed to represent the bones of the deceased.
Well, that's not creepy at all, is it?