The Festival of Bones / El festival de las calaveras

By Washington Post Book World

In Mexico, people celebrate the Day of the Dead from Oct. 31 (the eve of All Hallows, or Halloween) through Nov. 2. And celebrate is the right word: As Mexico City artist Luis San Vicente says, ‘It’s a party, not a funeral.’ His remarkable little poem, given in both the original Spanish and a rather free English translation, conjures up merry skeletons enjoying their special day but doesn’t shrink from the facts. Here’s a sample: ‘La calaca Pascuala canta/ Sin pena ni temor/ Aunque le falte una pata/ Y en el sombrero lleve una flor.’ (‘Pascal’s skeleton sings a song/ Without any pain or dread/ Although half a leg is really gone/ Still a flower sits upon his head.’) Also included: recipes for sugar skulls and pan de muerto, the bread of death.

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