Each October, as the Day of the Dead draws near, Mexican markets overflow with decorated breads, fanciful paper cutouts, and whimsical toy skulls and skeletons. To honor deceased relatives, Mexicans decorate graves and erect home altars. Drawing on a rich array of historical and ethnographic evidence, this volume reveals the origin and changing character of this celebrated holiday. It explores the emergence of the Day of the Dead as a symbol of Mexican and Mexican-American national identity. Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead poses a serious challenge to the widespread stereotype of the morbid Mexican, unafraid of death, and obsessed with dying. In fact, the Day of the Dead, as shown here, is a powerful affirmation of life and creativity. Beautifully illustrated, this book is essential for anyone interested in Mexican culture, art, and folklore, as well as contemporary globalization and identity formation.
Stanley Brandes received his PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1974. He is the author of numerous publications on religion, society, and culture in Spain and Mexico, including, most recently, Staying Sober in Mexico City (2002).
List of Figures and Plates. Acknowledgments. Part 1 Introduction. 1. The Day of the Dead, Problems and Paradoxes. Part 2 Historical Foundations. 2. The Sweetness of Death. 3. Skulls and Skeletons. Part 3 Contemporary Transformations. 4. Tourism and the State. 5. The Poetics of Death. 6. The Day of the Dead and Halloween. Part 4 North of the Border. 7. Teaching the Day of the Dead. 8. Creativity and Community. Part 5 Conclusion. 9. Mexican Views of Death. References. Index