Dia de los Muertos
While today is officially Halloween, a day widely recognized as a lighthearted fun holiday, it is also the The Day of the Dead, or as it is known to Mexicans, Dia de los Muertos.
Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated primarily throughout Mexico. The multi-day celebration starts today October 31st and runs until November 2nd. It focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.
Yesterday I ventured out to Jackson Heights/Corona, where the heart of the Mexican community is located, to see if I could get more information on Dia de los Muertos celebrations happening locally in Queens.
I was lucky to run into Senora Mary, (pictured above), pronounced Ma-rie on the corner of 89th Street & Roosevelt Ave in Jackson Heights. Senora Mary is a local street vendor from Puebla, Mexico who specializes in soul cleanses, spiritual cures for internal diseases, “mal de ojo” and Tarot card readings.
Along with the myriad of services above, Senora Mary also has a wealth of religious items for sale on her three tables conveniently tucked under the 90th Street – Elmhurst 7 Line station. Due to the upcoming Dia de los Muertos holiday there was some extra special items on display.
The first item that piqued my interest was the steel chain and Santisima Muerte pendant. On one side of the pendant, it featured a skeletal figure covered in a glowing bright purple robe. On the other side is a prayer for the Santisima Muerte.
As described to me by Senora Mary, the Santisima Muerte, or Santa Muerte is a female saint and central figure in the commemoration of Dia de los Muertos. Santa Muerte is affiliated with a wide range of powers, including love, good health, fortune and healing.
The other item(s) that I was intrigued by was the full table of porcelain baby Jesus dolls. The babies came in various sizes, each one white, each one unclothed. It was explained to me that the babies symbolize the birth of Jesus, and while that event represents December 24th, it holds true on days like today, where life is celebrated.
So while I didn’t find the event I was searching for, I found Senora Mary, and her small slice of Jackson Heights. I left her sanctuary with a nose and chest full of incienso de iglesia, (church incense) with some really good vibes and a better understanding of a commonly misunderstood holiday.
words and photo by Adolfo Steve Vazquez