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Millions of Mexicans Spend Day at Cemetery

November 3, 1988

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ Millions of Mexicans spent Wednesday at cemeteries observing the Day of the Dead, listening to music and taking gifts of flowers and food to deceased relatives who are said to drop by for a visit.

The small cemetery of Mixquic in southeastern Mexico City was crowded with people cleaning and adorning family graves with the traditional Cempasuchil flowers, a type of marigold.

Anita Ramirez, 15, put flowers on the grave of brother Horacio, who died 14 years ago.

″I came here to remember him even though I didn’t know him really when he was alive,″ she said. ″He was my brother.″

She said her parents were among hundreds of vendors selling everything from candy skulls to cardboard skeletons that dance when you pull a string.

The Day of the Dead, which follows All Souls’ Day, dates to Aztec times. It is a mix of beliefs that include the concepts that the dead are never far away and that the line between life and death is blurred.

In the weeks leading up to the Day of the Dead, bakery shelves carry bread in the shape of bones and sugar skulls with the names of the dead and the living. Friends exchange poems that jokingly refer to each other’s funerals.

Families make altars in their homes and adorn them with flowers and the favorite foods of their dead relatives. The same is done at cemeteries, where families wait to eat until they believe the dead have had their fill.

In recent years, however, many upper-class Mexicans adopted Halloween garb and practices instead, including plastic masks and pumpkins.

Miguel Angel Munez, 24, was putting flowers on the grave of his father, who died 14 years ago.

″We come here on this day to be with the people we love. They say they come back this day and we can be with them,″ Munez said.

The cemetery church, San Andres, had a Day of the Dead altar with a picture of Jesus as centerpiece and offerings of fruit, bread, candles - even sugar skulls - crowded on the altar.

More residents of the pueblo of Mixquic, bearing candles, visited the cemetery Tuesday night.

Mariachis and musicians playing drums and clarinets strolled through the cemetery Wednesday evening.

Children played with balloons and wore painted cone hats in a festive atmosphere as adults sat on the graves and quietly talked among themselves.

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