The Day of the Dead - The Day of the Dead By Octavio Paz...

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The Day of the DeadBy Octavio PazReprinted fromThe Many Worlds of Literature(Ed. Stuart Hirschberg,Macmillan, 1994)Octavio Paz, born on the outskirts of Mexico City in1914, isa poet, essayist, and unequaled observer ofMexican society. He served as a Mexican diplomat in France and Japan and as ambassador to Indiabefore resigning from the diplomatic service to protest the Tlatelolco Massacre (the governmentmassacre of three hundred students in Mexico City) in1968.His many volumes of poetry includeSunStone (1958),a new reading of Aztec myths,Marcel Duchamp (1968), The Children of the Mire (1974),andThe Monkey Grammarian (1981).In 1990, Paz was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. A writerof exceptional talents, Paz's many volumes of essays cover subjects as diverse as poetic theory(The Bowand the Lyre),studies on structuralism and modern art (in books on Levi-Strauss and Marcel Duchamp),meditations on the erotic(Conjunctions and Disjunctions),and his monumental study of Sor Juana Inesde la Cruz. As an essayist whose works have helped redefine the concept of Latin American culture, Pazhas writtenThe Labyrinth of Solitude,translated by Lysander Kemp(1961),from whichThe Day of theDeadistaken, andThe Other Mexico (1972).In the following essay, Paz offers insight, conveyed withhis typical stylistic grace, and erudition, concerning how fiestas fulfill deep psychological needs inMexican culture.The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings. Any occasion for getting together will serve, anypretext to stop the flow of time and commemorate men and events with festivals and ceremonies. Weare a ritual people, and this characteristic enriches both our imaginations and our sensibilities, which areequally sharp and alert. The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not inMexico. There are few places in the world where it is possible to take part in a spectacle like our greatreligious fiestas with their violent primary colors, their bizarre costumes and dances, their fireworks andceremonies and their inexhaustible welter of surprises: the fruit, candy, toys and other objects sold onthese days in the plazas and open-air markets.Our calendar is crowded with fiestas.There are certain days when the whole country, from the mostremote villages to the largest cities, prays, shouts, feasts, gets drunk and kills, in honor of the Virgin ofGuadalupe or Benito Juárez. Each year on the fifteenth of September, at eleven o'clock at night, wecelebrate the fiesta of theGrito1in all the plazas of the Republic, and the excited crowds actually shoutfor a whole hour . . . the better, perhaps, to remain silent for the rest of the year.During the daysbefore and after the twelfth of December,2time comes to a full stop, and instead of pushing us toward adeceptive tomorrow that is always beyond our reach, offers us a complete and perfect today of dancingand revelry, of communion with the most ancient and secret Mexico. 'Time is no longer succession, and

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