An ofrenda as seen at Pos Bloc Jakarta on October 29, 2021. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

Love, Not Fear: Día de los Muertos in Jakarta

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

OCTOBER 30, 2021

Jakarta. The Mexican Embassy in Indonesia is bringing the iconic Día de los Muertos celebrations —also known as ’Day  of the Dead’— to one the capital’s hottest hangouts Pos Bloc Jakarta.

On November 1-2, the Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead.

It is believed that is when the souls of the departed return to visit the living. 

Families will set up an ofrenda or altar —decorated with sugar skulls and marigolds— at their homes to welcome the deceased loved ones. One might find photographs, food offerings, and other belongings of the departed to make them feel like home. They would also place favorite toys of the children who have died.

But many often mistake Day of the Dead as the Mexican version of Halloween.

The Day of the Dead is not about taking part in fear-inducing activities and trick-or-treat.

According to Mexican Ambassador to Indonesia Armando G. Alvarez, the Day of the Dead symbolizes love. It is a time when the deceased loved ones visit us from the afterlife.

“The Mexican of the Dead is not Halloween. They are different. Halloween is about fear, whereas the Day of the Dead is about love,” Armando told the Jakarta Globe at Pos Bloc Jakarta on Friday.

“The Day of the Dead is not a sad celebration, but a happy one because you are getting together with your loved ones,” Armando added.

A closer look of the ofrenda as seen at the Day of the Dead celebration in Pos Bloc Jakarta on October 29, 2021. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)
A closer look of the ofrenda as seen at Pos Bloc Jakarta on October 29, 2021. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

The act of honoring the dead also exists in Indonesia, particularly the Torajan people's afterlife rituals or ma'nene, during which the tribe would exhume and groom the dead. 

"Indonesia and Mexico are on [opposite] sides of the world. Despite the huge distance, we share many social and cultural similarities, including in this field. The Torajans are showing love and respect for their deceased relatives,” Armando said.

To promote better understanding of the Day of the Dead, the Mexican Embassy has set up an ofrenda at Pos Bloc Jakarta. Visitors can take a closer look at the ofrenda and learn more about the celebrations. 

The calaveritas of the diplomats at the Mexican Embassy in Indonesia as seen in Pos Bloc Jakarta on October 29, 2021. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)
The calaveritas of the diplomats at the Mexican Embassy in Indonesia as seen at Pos Bloc Jakarta on October 29, 2021. (JG Photo/Jayanty Nada Shofa)

They can also read calaveritas (‘literary skulls’) or humorous epitaphs narrating the supposed deaths of still-alive people. Interestingly, the calaveritas shown at the event are of the Mexican diplomats in Indonesia, including Ambassador Armando himself. The verses also feature La Catrina, an elegant female skeleton that symbolizes the Day of the Dead celebrations.

“[The calaveritas] remind us of our mortality, that all of us will die one day. So in the mean time, try to be happy,” Armando said.

The Day of the Dead-inspired event at Pos Bloc Jakarta will take place from October 29-November 3.

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