Cleaning bones: Maya community honors the dead

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Sunday, September 24, 2023

Cleaning bones: Maya community honors the dead
View of the remains of a member of the Mayan community of Pomuch during a private ritual where relatives clean their loved ones' remains preceeding celebrations of the Day of the Dead, on October 19, 2021, in Campeche State, Mexico. LUIS PEREZ / AFP.

POMUCH.- Antonio Canche lovingly brushed a relative's skull in a cemetery in the Mexican jungle -- part of the Maya community's ancestral bone cleaning tradition to honor the dead.

This year, the ritual, usually held in late October before Mexico's Day of the Dead festival, is taking place for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indigenous Maya residents of Pomuch in Mexico's southeastern state of Campeche carefully open graves and take out the bones of their relatives.

After they are cleaned, the burial shroud is changed for a new one and the remains are returned to their resting place, said Canche.

Canche, 74, spent the whole day cleaning the remains of his in-laws, his parents and an uncle.

"For me it means joy and enthusiasm to do it," he said.

Between songs and anecdotes, the families watched over the remains for a few hours to give them some sun and fresh air.

"Come out, come out souls of grief," women sang in front of open boxes containing human remains and white clothes embroidered with the names of the deceased.

"It's a very beautiful tradition to remember our ancestors," said resident Jacinta Chi.

"We change their shrouds because the celebration is coming and we remember them with a lot of love and affection," he added.

It is customary for bones to be cleaned for the first time three years after death, and every year thereafter.

"Last year due to the pandemic, the ritual was not carried out. Many people were very afraid," said Sebastian Yam, Pomuch's cultural representative.

"The pandemic was worldwide, and definitely here in Pomuch as in all places there were many people who died because of Covid," he said.

This year one woman performed the ritual for the first time with the remains of her father. She had to open the coffin, remove the skeleton, divide it into pieces and place them in a wooden box.

Nobody knows exactly when the bone cleaning practice began, but Yam believes it to be centuries old, based on the accounts of the village elders.

After cleaning the remains of their relatives, the residents of Pomuch, like others Mexicans, will set up an altar in their homes with their favorite dishes and drinks for the Day of the Dead.

It is believed that their spirits will return from death to eat and drink on what is one of Mexico's most important festivals, celebrated at the start of November.

Orange marigold flowers are laid out to guide the spirits to the altar as part of this tradition recognized by UNESCO on the List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

October 23, 2021

World's largest museum for an artist? Munch gets new digs

New-York Historical Society presents "Scenes of New York City: The Elie and Sarah Hirschfeld Collection"

With splendor and saints, Hispanic Society shows its treasures

Art Institute of Chicago ends a docent program, and sets off a backlash

Monumental installation by Jaume Plensa unveiled in Jersey City

Italian city defies China bid to scrap dissident's show

Christie's to offer masterpieces from the Volkart Foundation

Cartoon dreams: Netflix's Japan anime school targets booming demand

'Big John', world's largest triceratops, sells for 6.6mn euros

'He raises the bar for me': 4 artists on the influence of Bob Thompson

Morgan Lehman Gallery opens an exhibition of works by Leah Tacha

The many styles of Emma Amos, and her drive to get free

Platform Project Space opens a two person show by artists Ilse Sørensen Murdock and Jim Condron

Revolutionary model turned uncompromising painter

Vinyl is selling so well that it's getting hard to sell vinyl

Wes Anderson turns his unique eye on France

She's making history in opera. Can she help ensure its future?

Jerry Pinkney, acclaimed children's book illustrator, dies at 81

Alabama's next poet laureate writes searingly about race

Bernard Haitink, conductor who let music speak for itself, dies at 92

Cleaning bones: Maya community honors the dead

The Bruce Museum appoints Margarita Karasoulas as Curator of Art

Alan Lapidus, architect of hotels and casinos, dies at 85

The curious, astounding collection of the magician Ricky Jay

Different Ways of Styling Picture Frames on a Wall

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful