Laughing at Death

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One of the ideas we were interested in is whether Los Dias de Muerte is evidence a unique Mexican attitude to death: the Mexican who laughs and dances with death, who is not afraid of death but instead venerates it.

The history of Mexico is rife with bloodshed and death for the poor and indigenous. The anthropologist Carlos Navarrete has suggested that this  idea about death developed in the 1930s and 1940s in a postrevolutionary time when the Mexican was searching for his roots. Intellectuals like the writer Octavia Paz (see his quote at the beginning of this blog) and artist Diego Rivera, dramatized and romanticized a typical but perhaps mythical Mexican “character”. We now know it’s important to question this romantic stereotype about an Mexican approach to death.

We are surrounded by many quirky examples of Mexican black humour. We wonder are the living being reminded of death or have the dead been given life?

The skull or dancing skeleton is at the heart of popular iconography that laughs at the rich and powerful or the fickle nature of fate and the fragility of life itself. So many Day of the Dead rituals invoke colour, sensory pleasure, vibrancy and chaotic energy, music and dancing- the exact opposite of what we usually associate with death: silence, darkness, fear, grimness, fear and a subdued gloomy, serious mood.

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