A party for the dear departed

An All Souls’ Day in two installments.

In Jujuy, the northernmost province of Argentina, dying is not forever. Even though you are no longer alive, you are expected to return home to dine with your family and friends once a year, on the night of November 1. On this occasion, a special table will have been set with your favorite food and drinks. In addition to the offerings of the wine, locro stew, barbecued meat, or any other morsel that took your fancy during your lifetime, the table will be decked with the special little Day of the Dead breads shaped like crosses, ladders and other figures. At 12 noon the next day (Nov. 2) the offerings that you did not consume will be eaten by your family, friends and neighbors, who will later go to the cemetery to leave flowers and more figure breads on your grave, and hear one of the Masses that are said there during those two days.
The idea of having a party with one’s dear departed is imbedded in many Latin American cultures, especially those with strong indigenous roots. It implies accepting death as part of life, and defying it at the same time. It also makes the loss of a loved one a bit more bearable.
In Jujuy, people remember with nostalgia what it was like 20 years ago, when everyone left their doors open on the night of November 1 to make it easy for the souls to enter. Nowadays doors are kept locked every night, as elsewhere in a country where many people fear what in the past few years has begun to feel like a growing wave of social strife, crime and violence.
And to add insult to injury, local kids have of late taken to aping the US Halloween tradition of donning disguises and taking to the streets to beg for “trick or treat” candy on the last night of October – the eve of All Saints’ Day (which in Jujuy is celebrated as an All Souls’ Day in two installments). It is doubtful that the new Halloween kids think of the dead.

PHOTO CREDIT: Day of the Dead figure breads. http://turismojujuy.blogia.com.