Day-by-Day: Remembering Juvenal Gutiérrez, Teotitlan del Valle

In a week we will observe Dia de los Muertos here. In the city, it’s a big party. Many foreign visitors will arrive to eat, drink mezcal and make a rowdy show of Muertos that has become more like Halloween here. In the USA, Halloween — or All Hallows’ Eve — is said to rival Christmas in the amount of money spent on decorations.

in Teotitlan where I live, the small Zapotec village of around 7,000 people, observations are more traditional in keeping with pre-Hispanic culture fused with indigenous roots. My culture tour group will start on October 28, and I’ll be posting as we go along.

Right now, it is chilly and there is a fine rain that required me to search my closet for a wool covering and a long sleeve blouse this morning.

Yesterday, I went to visit Norma Gutiérrez and her daughter Lisette. Husband and father Juvenal died from covid in San Diego earlier this year. He was young and strong. In Spanish (with some translation help from Lisette) we talked about the existential question of life and death: WHY?

is there an answer? I suppose this is why religion exists — to help us accept the inexplicable and to give us hope that we may reunite with a loved one who has departed this world. It’s a perfect lead in to Dia de los Muertos—a mystical tradition that reveres the dead and welcomes them (their) spirit back into our lives each year.

Muertos is a time to honor and remember Juvenal’s life along with so many others list to this virus. We build an altar that includes favorite foods, beverages and the aromas of chocolate a d wild marigold guide the dead back home where they come to life for a day.

Memory plays a critical role. As I sat with Norma and Lisette, I returned to the time I first met Juvenal 16 years ago, when I visited the English class he was teaching. I thought of my own mother and father and wished they were still with me. And, I acknowledged that they are — in spirit.

Norma is a baker and makes delicious organic cakes. I brought back almond flour for her from the US to make me one that is gluten free. It costs $17 for a bag of this flour here! She will be baking for our grand finale tour dinner.

There is no better way to help families as they recover from loss but to sit with them to share their pain, and to support them economically.

2 responses to “Day-by-Day: Remembering Juvenal Gutiérrez, Teotitlan del Valle