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“The Day of the Dead”By Octavio Paz Reprinted from The Many Worlds of Literature (Ed. Stuart Hirschberg, Macmillan, 1994) Octavio Paz, born on the outskirts of Mexico City in 1914, is a poet, essayist, and unequaled observer of Mexican society. He served as a Mexican diplomat in France and Japan and as ambassador to India before resigning from the diplomatic service to protest the Tlatelolco Massacre (the government massacre of three hundred students in Mexico City) in 1968. His many volumes of poetry include Sun Stone (1958), a new reading of Aztec myths, Marcel Duchamp (1968), The Children of the Mire (1974), and The Monkey Grammarian (1981). In 1990, Paz was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. A writer of exceptional talents, Paz's many volumes of essays cover subjects as diverse as poetic theory (The Bow and 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 Ines de la Cruz. As an essayist whose works have helped redefine the concept of Latin American culture, Paz has written The Labyrinth of Solitude, translated by Lysander Kemp (1961), from which “The Day of the Dead”is taken, and The Other Mexico (1972). In the following essay, Paz offers insight, conveyed with his typical stylistic grace, and erudition, concerning how fiestas fulfill deep psychological needs in Mexican culture. The solitary Mexican loves fiestas and public gatherings. Any occasion for getting together will serve, any pretext to stop the flow of time and commemorate men and events with festivals and ceremonies. We are a ritual people, and this characteristic enriches both our imaginations and our sensibilities, which are equally sharp and alert. The art of the fiesta has been debased almost everywhere else, but not in Mexico. There are few places in the world where it is possible to take part in a spectacle like our great religious fiestas with their violent primary colors, their bizarre costumes and dances, their fireworks and ceremonies and their inexhaustible welter of surprises: the fruit, candy, toys and other objects sold on these days in the plazas and open-air markets. Our calendar is crowded with fiestas. There are certain days when the whole country, from the most remote villages to the largest cities, prays, shouts, feasts, gets drunk and kills, in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe or Benito Juárez. Each year on the fifteenth of September, at eleven o'clock at night, we celebrate the fiesta of the Grito1in all the plazas of the Republic, and the excited crowds actually shout for a whole hour . . . the better, perhaps, to remain silent for the rest of the year. During the days before and after the twelfth of December,2time comes to a full stop, and instead of pushing us toward a deceptive tomorrow that is always beyond our reach, offers us a complete and perfect today of dancing and revelry, of communion with the most ancient and secret Mexico. 'Time is no longer succession, and becomes what it originally was and is: the present, in which past and future are reconciled.