The annual Dia de los Muertos processional was held last Friday in the Mission district of San Francisco. From the site:

The Day of the Dead is a unique festival that is the result of 16th century contact between Mesoamerica and Europe. Conceptually, it is a hybrid, owing its origins to both prehispanic Aztec philosophy and religion and medieval European ritual practice. Ceremonies held during the Aztec summer month of Miccailhuitontli were mainly focused on the celebration of the dead. These were held under the supernatural direction of the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Both children and dead ancestors were remembered and celebrated. It was also during this month that the Aztecs commemorated fallen warriors. According to Diego Duran, a 16th century Spanish priest, the Aztecs would bring offerings of food to altars in honor of the dead. They would also place small clay images that were supposed to represent the deceased on these same altars.

When the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century, they brought the Christian Holiday of All Soul's Day with them. This was a Roman Catholic holy day commemorating the dead in general as well as baptized Christians who were believed to be in purgatory. Spanish priests were quick to see a correlation between the Aztec and Christian celebrations so moved the Aztec festival from summer to fall so that it coincided with All Soul's day. This was done in the hopes that the Aztec holiday, which the Spaniards considered to be pagan, would be transformed into an acceptable Christian holiday.

The result of this cultural blending is an event where modern Mexicanos celebrate their ancestors during the first two days of November, rather than at the beginning of summer. While this modern festival has Christian components, it still maintains its indigenous Native American ones.

Yearly, people from all around the city gather in the Mission and parade down the street, playing music, carrying altars, dressing in Mexican Gothic costume, and painting their faces with skull masks. There were a number of different marching groups anchoring the parade: the first a high-energy drum and horn brigade, a central group playing an eerie dirge on gongs and cymbals, and finally a white-clad dance and music troupe from a local arts elementary school. Rachel and I attended as uncostumed onlookers. We walked up and down the length of the parade, and I took pictures. At the end, we went for food at El Farolito on 24th at Mission. As we left the taqueria, there was a Michael Jackson's Thriller-themed dance party going on in the square at the BART stop.

I love being back in the city. Attending these sorts of community events is like nothing else.

I only thought of Grim Fandango a couple times, honest :-)

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