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Book Review: Day of the Dead

Mary  Andrade’s slim volume, Through the Eyes of the Soul: Day of the Dead in México ( A través de los Ojos del Alma, Día de Muertos en México), is a pageant of color, anecdote and fact. Anyone interested in the culture of Mexico, or intrigued by the mysteries and charms of one of its most beautiful festivals, is bound to enjoy reading it. The reader will be pleased to note, that two additional volumes on the same subject are expected from the author soon.

The book opens with a lucid account of the history and meaning of the Day of the Dead, and proceeds to weave a marvelous tapestry of history, culture and sociological insight into very few pages of text. The writing is clear, and at times inspirational; the anecdotes and factual background flow together into a nearly seamless whole.

The author is expert at her subject: Ms. Andrade and her husband publish La Oferta Review, a national award-winning multicultural newspaper and writes often about Mexico. In 1987, she began a research project in Janitzio, Michoacan, which led her squarely into a love affair with the Dia de los Muertos — a holiday which, itself, combines and accentuates many of the traits that make Mexican culture unique and memorable.

What really sets this volume apart from any other writing on the Day of the Dead is the photographs. Here, we encounter not just the decorative tombstones that made the holiday famous or the festive native garb that reflects the color and depth of the day. We see the faces of Mexicans, celebrating and contemplating the awe of life and death. We encounter Mexico’s families and communities in their most sacred hour — in communion with the friends, relatives and citizens that helped them create the life they enjoy.

One final note about this book: It is not to be enjoyed in one sitting. Buy it, peruse it, read a chapter and return to it. For it comes as close as any book can, to providing a window into life, death and the celebration of humanity, as understood by the Mexican culture and tradition.

 

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