Today may be Halloween, but it’s also another special day - the first day of Día de los Muertos! We’re joined by special guest, Trina Espinoza, who tells us about the history of the holiday, the different ways it’s celebrated across the Americas, and her own personal experiences with The Day of the Dead growing up!
Trina Espinoza is also known as msbeautyphile, and runs a Youtube web series dedicated to demystifying beauty, cosmetics, and personal care products. You can subscribe to her channel, follow her on Instagram and on Twitter @msbeautyphile!
- Tab for a Cause is a free browser extension that lets you earn money for charity as you browse the web. Join Team Spirits at tabforacause.com/spirits.
- Backblaze is your source for unlimited cloud backup for Macs and PCs at just $5/month. Sign up for a 15-day free trial at backblaze.com/spirits!
Find Us Online
If you like Spirits, help us grow by spreading the word! Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, & Goodreads, and review us on Apple Podcasts to help new listeners find the show. You can support us on Patreon to unlock bonus audio content, director’s commentaries, custom recipe cards, and so much more.
Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends and folklore. Every week we pour, drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is Episode 101 Día de los Muertos with Trina Espinoza.
Julia If we sound very groggily, no, that's not the word, raspy, I suppose, Amanda is sick and I spent all night screaming last night.
Amanda: Were you at a haunted house, Julia?
Julia No, I was at a wrestling match. It's one of those two options.
Amanda: That is so funny. Do you know who I would bring with me if I were going to go to a wrestling match besides my best friend Julia.
Julia Obviously you'd, bring me but I think he would also bring all of our new patrons.
Amanda: Absolutely. Steve, Meg, Caitlin, Pockets for snacks, Eloise and Jenny. I think it'd be really good at a wrestling match. I don't know.
Julia Especially Pockets for snacks because they bring snacks. Hey get it passed security and now you all have nachos.
Amanda: Oh yeah. Then after we watched the match, we will go to a bar with our supporting producer level patrons; Philip, Julie, Christina, [inaudible 00:01:01] Josie, Amara, Neil, Jessica, Ryan, Feel fresh and Debra. You know who we would run into behind the bar, our legend level patrons. Whoa, I can't believe you're here too.
Julia That's wild.
Amanda: Hi, Jess, hi, ELisa, Zoe, Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack Murray and Leanne, wild seeing you here.
Julia It's so exciting. We're so glad to see you. Thanks for welcoming us to your bar.
Amanda: Now I want to live in the universe of this fiction.
Julia Oh, man. Oh, man. Speaking of wrestling, Amanda, I think I have our recommendation for the week.
Amanda: Oh, what is it?
Julia I'm pulling it off the shelf as we speak. Friend of the show, Eric Silver got me an amazing, an amazing tabletop RPG game for my birthday this year. I highly recommend it. If you are into, for instance, Join The Party, our sister show, or if you like, just role playing games or just like to have fun and also think wrestling is cool, definitely check out Worldwide Wrestling. It's by Nathan D. Paoletta, I think is how you pronounce it. It is very cool, if you ever wanted to be a wrestler but also like not do cool flips but do cool flips in your mind, this is a good recommendation.
Amanda: That sounds perfect. No physical liability but adventure.
Julia What more could you want? What more could you want in life? Adventure but no physical harm?
Amanda: I love it. This week we'd also want to sponsor someone that prevents me from inflicting physical harm on my house when I delete files that I need, its Backblaze. Our source for unlimited cloud backup for both Macs and PCs. You can get a 15 day free trial with all the features at backblaze.com/spirits. We are also sponsoring this week by Tab for a Cause. They are a very cool browser extension that lets you raise money for charity that doesn't cost you a cent. You just put it on your browser, you browse the web and you make money for charity on Team Spirits. So, sign up now at tabforacause.com/spirits.
Julia Speaking of things you should do on your computer, why don't you check out all of our other shows on Multitude, multitude.productions. We have three other shows on the network besides Join The Party, which I already mentioned.
Amanda: You can also put Multitude into your podcast player right now. You can go and search while you listen. We have Horse, which is basically the best way to experience sports in my opinion. You don't have to know anything about sports. You can just listen to the drama and the memes and the interesting history behind basketball. It's so good.
Julia You know what the best part about Horse is, Amanda?
Amanda: Is it the fact that they have a different fun joke in the title every week, then you have to figure out where the joke comes from?
Julia I do love that. That is true. But also I just like to not care about basketball at all in my entire life before Horse came out, and now I actually give a shit.
Amanda: Yeah, I played basketball for six years. I also didn't care, but now I do.
Julia Your sister also played basketball, didn't she? I feel like I went to a couple of her games.
Amanda: She did, much better than me and cared a lot more. But now I care and I can bond with my dad my grandpa about basketball, which is a great thing.
Julia Or you can check out We Station which is the Lost Girls fan cast that Amanda and Eric do, and also me sometimes.
Amanda: We talk about some mythology and also a lot of bad wigs and character development. So, if you like the lens that Julia and I and Eric sometimes put on to mythology, I think you'll like the way that Eric and I talk about this little film and TV critique of a show that is kind of bad, but we really love.
Julia Also, if you like bisexual protagonists, nothing is better than Lost Girls.
Amanda: Seriously, there's no more bi-protagonists than Bo.
Julia And then of course, you've heard us mention it a million times now, but [inaudible 00:04:39] a 26 year old. He's 26 now? God damn, people get older. 26 year old man's journey through the Harry Potter books for the first time.
Amanda: He's closing in on the end of Half Blood Prince which is so exciting. He just found out what horror cracks are. It's like watching a baby learn to walk. It's so exciting.
Julia It's amazing.
Amanda: It's adorable. You may hear some familiar voices when we get into Deathly Hallows. So, it is a great time to get in on the action on [inaudible 00:05:04].
Julia That's all of our shows. You should also check out Join The Party like I mentioned before, because gay and role playing and fantasy-
Amanda: Lots of role playing, lots of fantasy, lots of jokes, an adorable pup. I have an adorable pup in the game.
Julia Your pup is so good.
Amanda: Join The Party is super, super fun. Big stuff coming up of Join The Party. So, it is a good time as always to get into it. Well, you will hear us introduce our guest when we get into the episode. But this was a really, really fun one. It was so exciting to learn from someone who has a link to this tradition of Day of the Dead to teach us all about what that means to her and her family. And it is a super exciting way to spend Halloween, not just eating candy and scaring children who come up to your porch. But learning about how some folks around the world celebrate this time of year in a very different and super meaningful way.
Julia Yeah, we're really excited to dig deep into this episode. Our guest is fantastic in doing so.
Amanda: All right. So, thank you again to Trina. We hope you enjoy. And now let's get The Spirits podcast Episode 101 Día de los Muertos with Trina Espinoza.
Julia We would love to give a huge welcome and thank you to Trina Espinoza who's joining us. She is Miss Beautyphile a wonderful youtuber about science and beauty, the science behind cosmetics and all kinds of stuff. Welcome, Trina.
Trina: Thank you so much for inviting me today.
Amanda: It's our pleasure, absolutely. You're going to teach us about something that I don't know a lot about, which is always exciting for me.
Trina: Right? Well, it's Halloween time, right? And tonight you guys might be thinking about going out to a costume party or visiting a haunted house with friends, or maybe you're the type that likes to stay in and tell scary stories and horror films. But I bet regardless of how you spend your evening, it's probably going to be doing something scary, right?
Amanda: Definitely listeners of our show, members of our community probably going to plan something creepy, something cool.
Julia We're a big haunted house family over here. So, I feel you.
Trina: Wonderful. I enjoy a good scare as well. So, Halloween has a lot of cultural symbols like ghosts and goblins, witches, the Grim Reaper. All of these carry the idea that the dead are meant to be feared. That's perfect for Halloween. But today what I wanted to do was offer a different take on the holiday. Today I wanted to share with you Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Amanda: Oh, I'm very excited about this. This is going to be amazing.
Julia A really good end to our spookiest month.
Trina: Right. Well, great. So, it's a holiday where the dead are meant to be remembered and honored instead of feared. What's also really important, and what gives the holiday meaning to me is that it's about celebrating the lives of the dead here on earth. This holiday it's celebrated between October 31st and November 2nd. Some people go out and they celebrate all three days. Some people only celebrate one. It's strongly associated with Mexico, though it is celebrated in many other countries; Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia. It's even celebrated by communities here in the US. I don't know, have you guys participated in any of the day festivities at all?
Julia I haven't. I can't say that I have any real experience with it.
Amanda: Now, I have some friends who have spoken about it as part of their family or their growing up tradition. But nothing myself. I did though Google and today, the 31st of October is the first day of Day of The Dead this year. So, it sounds like we have a really good spooky coincidence, not we planned for.
Julia We totally did.
Trina: Wonderful. Well, my family celebrated it here in the US too. I'm from a Mexican American family. What was really exciting to me is that the holiday has been made mainstream in the last few years thanks to pop culture favorites like Coco, the Book of Life, Grim Fandango. All of those really celebrate some of the artistic symbols of Day of the Dead. So, what I wanted to do is just share a little bit about maybe its history.
Amanda: I would love for a good history lesson please. Please go on.
Julia Take it away.
Trina: All right, here we go. The holiday is a combination of two traditions. The first tradition were the festivals of the indigenous. So, these were the native populations that resided in Mexico before the Spanish arrived. So, in the 1500s, 16th Century, there were tribes like the Maya, Toltecs, that Olmecs and the Aztecs. You may have heard of them.
Julia Just a couple of them.
Trina: Just a few. The second tradition was the tradition of the Spanish Conquistadores that had their own Roman Catholic rituals. So, let me dive into some of those. The indigenous tribes like the Aztecs, they had a harvest festival dedicated to this goddess named Mictēcacihuātl. Try to say that three times fast, right?
Amanda: I won't even try.
Julia You can do that for us in this episode in particular.
Trina: She was known as Lady Of The Dead. As a quick detour because this is spirits and you guys like to dive into the history of different gods and goddesses. This goddess in particular had this really interesting backstory. She was born and sacrificed as an infant, which apparently wasn't a rare thing for the Aztecs. They would do this quite frequently as part of their sacrificing rituals. This goddess' visual representation is a defleshed body. So, she was basically like bones, and maybe a little bit of gore.
Julia Just a couple of intestines.
Trina: Exactly. Just a couple of intestines hanging out. She had an open jaw. That open jaw was so she could swallow the stars to introduce the day. So, I thought that that was actually quite beautiful is that-
Julia That's so interesting. I love that imagery.
Trina: Yeah is that she's the scary person, she's the dead but she has a very important role in life. You'll start to notice as I talk about Day of the Dead that theme will continue is that the dead have a role with the living.
Amanda: That's amazing. That image is so resonant with me. I love this idea of picturing the heavens rotating around. You ever seen this time lapses where it's the camera pointing up to the sky, you can see the stars rotating around. But I pictured that instead going into a skeletons mouth. I can't think of any other examples of a skeleton in particular being representative of anything except for a dead human. Being elevated to the level of goddess is awesome.
Trina: That's an interesting perspective actually. Yeah, I love that. I think that's great that she has a role. She has a role in life. So, the Aztecs believe that Mictēcacihuātl presided over the festivals in honor of the dead. So, that was her significance in indigenous culture. On the other hand, we have the Spanish Conquistadores. They also had a tradition for honoring the dead. It was called [inaudible 00:12:20] It's a three day religious observance. It includes All Saints Eve and All Saints Day.
This was a time when they would remember all the saints and martyrs in Christian history and then they had a third day, because two wasn't enough. Third day-
Julia No, it's never enough.
Trina: Never enough, right? That was All Souls Day. That was about remembering the faithfully departed. So, all the souls of the Christians who died.
Amanda: Okay. I love pausing a minute to think about this. My great grandmother whose parents are from Germany, but grew up in the US actually really loved this whole thing. She celebrated all three. She wasn't particularly ... She was Lutheran. She wasn't Catholic, so I don't know where she got the excitement from. But I love this idea that we have various saints days and feast days throughout the year but this day, All Saints, All Saints Day. Doesn't matter what saint, all saints. All you get celebrated. I just think it's pretty sweet.
Julia Was this an Irish grandma Amanda?
Amanda: No, this was my mom's grandmother who was Lutheran with German heritage. So, I don't know. She really loved Halloween, though. So maybe she just had an excuse to extend her celebration and make it seem like it was godly when she was just loving scaring people. She was great.
Julia I would love to figure out why that is later.
Trina: This is a great, thanks for sharing that because it's interesting to hear somebody who has some connection to at least part of this story. That's really great. So, when the Conquistadores arrived in Latin America, they found it really difficult to rid the indigenous of their native rituals. They made a compromise. What they allowed the indigenous to do was keep some of their rituals, but move them to the dates that were in line with the Christian holiday.
Julia That seems like something that they would do a lot often.
Amanda: Yeah, we see this a lot where they'll either demonize pre-existing cultures and figures and traditions or somehow glom them into Christianity.
Julia Yeah. We're always excited when it's like, oh, the conquering people had trouble making the other people do what they want. I'm like, good. Fucking good. You deserve that problem.
Amanda: You're just walking into someone's house and being like, "No, it's mine now. Also, let's move in. Also, I'm changing all of the paint and turning all the furniture upside down and everyone's like, "Excuse me."
Trina: Well, I think given that obviously conquering is gosh, just a real tough thing in history in general. It is really nice to know that the indigenous were able to keep something, and that something still exists today. I think that's a really powerful message. They decided to keep and retain this tradition. So, the outcome of all this was this hybridize holiday. It was maybe the first mash up. I'm sure there's many mashups in history. But this was one of the mashups that happened. It was a holiday that came from both the colonizer and the colonized. So, I think that's what makes this holiday really unique.
That takes me to my personal experience with it. Because I celebrated this holiday growing up, I only celebrated it as one day. Day Of The Dead for me was November 2nd. We celebrated the deaths of all of my family. Some cultures will separate it into two days. And they will celebrate the deaths of children the day before, or honor the deaths of children the day before, on the first and then November 2nd, they will celebrate the adults. But the way that I grew up, we celebrate both of them together.
I really loved it for so many reasons. The first is, as a kid it really helped me process the idea of death. I think that that's really important. I grew up being told by my mother, my mother's from Mexico. I grew up being told that the dead were all around us, and that we weren't supposed to fear that. They celebrated our successes, and they comforted us in our failures. They were even affronted when we misbehaved. So, you can imagine when I did something as a little kid, and not only were my parents watching and not only were my parents disappointed, but all of my ancestors were too. So, it was a double bummer.
Amanda: No pressure, no pressure.
Julia I really like that though, because I think it's really important that a culture represents death as something that is a part of life. I feel like a lot of times in Western culture, particularly white Western culture, we tend to really fear death and we tend to just try and separate as much as possible the dead is other and therefore frightening, which it's always exciting for me to see a culture that does the opposite with that, because it's so different from the culture that we grew up in. But also, it seems healthier in a lot of ways.
Trina: For me, definitely, it just felt very eye opening. I think it made me feel like I had more of a relationship with the dead, and compared to a lot of my peers when I was younger who lost grandparents or other family members. I noticed that there was a difference between maybe some of what I experienced versus some of what they experienced. I felt like it was a little bit more, maybe at times more limited. Grief seemed very personal and very focused on the pain of those that weren't dead. It just felt very intensely private and something you couldn't really share with others.
For me, I think that is what I enjoyed about this was I felt that it was very inclusive. We all die, right? So, we can all relate.
Amanda: Yeah, that reminds me a lot of the work of Caitlin Dottie who does the YouTube channel Ask A Mortician.
Trina: Oh, my goodness. I'm so glad you mentioned her. I just heard about her the other day. I had someone else told me about her. I've been checking out her channel and binging on it ever since yesterday.
Amanda: Yeah, she is incredible. She is a mortician who talks a lot about not just the Science and industry of death. But also, obviously it has a big impact on people and culture as well. One of the things that she mentioned that I never thought about before is how privatized debt has gotten. When people die, their bodies are dealt with by professionals, and everything is just very clinical. Part of that is the rise of understanding medicine and not wanting to be completely next to someone in your house who just succumbed to an illness. But also its led to people morning in private or not talking about it or not dealing with it or trying to just move on as quickly as possible instead of traditions of morning that take place for several days or in the house or just death rituals that give people a little bit more space to deal with that.
So, I'm really curious, Trina, what The Day of the Dead celebrations looks like when you were growing up?
Trina: It's a period of bonding with family and friends. That's something that certainly happened in my household. It was private in the fact that we didn't do it publicly, per se. But we did invite a lot of family and friends over. What we would do is we would sit around the table and talk about our loved ones. What I really liked about it is that the conversations would take on a humorous tone, which sounds kind of awkward, but in some ways, it was kind of a refreshing perspective on death.
We would remember a person's individualism and quirks. It was just a nice reminder that we're all imperfect and that imperfections can be quite beautiful. An example of this was my aunt Jeannie. She passed away a few years ago and she really did not like dogs. Unfortunately, we were a family with lots of dogs. We didn't know when she was going to stop by. So, we always had the dogs around. She would come by, and she would come into the house and she would see the dogs and the dogs would approach her, and she would hop around on her feet, like she was walking across hot coals because she didn't want the dogs to touch her.
So, every time we recall her life, we have this funny memory of her hopping around and freaking out because of the dogs. It just makes us smile and makes us laugh. I think those are the kind of stories that really relish the things that just make us human and that make life beautiful. So, it's not uncommon to tell stories like that about people and just reconnect with them.
With that said, everybody does celebrate Day of the Dead a little bit differently though. Like I said, we celebrated around the kitchen table, and we would have discussions. But some people actually go out and they celebrate it publicly. They have processions, they have exhibitions sometimes, sometimes it happens in cemeteries. So, it can happen all over. It might be good for me to talk about some of the Día de los Muertos symbols just so you can picture maybe a little more about what the day would be like.
Julia Absolutely, yeah.
Trina: Okay. We have something called the ofrenda, and that is an altar. We basically put it together a few days before. The ofrenda, the altar is not for worship though. The idea is that it is used as a guide to help our loved ones souls travel from the land of the dead to the land of the living. This altar is multi-tiered. It'll have usually a level that represents heaven and earth or heaven. Earth, and the underworld. What we do is we decorate it with a bunch of different symbols.
Some of these ofrendas will be in homes and cemeteries, but you can also find them in public spaces like museums and schools now. They're decorated with photos of the deceased, their favorite foods or drinks and some of their favorite belongings. So, it's a nice way to, I guess, customize your ofrenda and make it personal for the people who've passed.
Other traditional things that we do is we have pan de muerto. Do you guys know what that is?
Amanda: No, I have no idea what it is.
Trina: Okay, so, pan de muerto is actually bread of the dead.
Julia Okay, that's makes sense.
Amanda: I love it.
Trina: Which probably sounds a little dark, but it's actually really good. I really enjoy it. It's sweet bread that's dusted with granulated sugar. The bread is molded with bones and little skulls on top. They're quite cute. I like them.
Julia That's adorable actually, yeah.
Amanda: I think they should be at Julia's wedding.
Trina: Yeah. Sometimes there will be tiny little dough teardrops actually on the top of the bread as well to symbolize sorrow. They're really meaningful. The idea behind this is that the dead when they're traveling, they can get hungry when they arrive, and they can get nutrition from their own dead bread. So, sometimes you'll have that out. Sugar skulls will also be put out. Those are made out of granulated sugar. You put them into molds, and then you unmould them later and you put icing on them, and you decorate them all colorful and really nice. They can vary in size from maybe the size of a quarter to the size of an actual human skull.
As I'm describing this, I think I just had an Etsy moment where I was like, oh my god, wouldn't it be cute to have little skulls that are like sugar cubes?
Julia I can likely make those. I'm not entirely sure, but I feel like they might.
Trina: Darn. Here I thought I was the originator.
Julia Hey listen, you can still make them. There's plenty of stuff on Etsy that's multiple sellers all make different stuff.
Trina: They have the sugar skulls and they're very popular. They're something that I really like to make with my siblings. Some cultures will even actually put the name of the deceased person on the forehead of the skull just to make it extra personal.
Amanda: That's awesome. Now, I want to go back to something that you said before about the souls of the dead be hungry and that's why the bread of the dead feeds them. Was that right?
Amanda: Okay. That makes it seem like death is very physical in this aspect. Can you can you tell me a little bit more about that because there's a lot of different cultures that have physical after lives similar to the Egyptians and stuff like that. So, I'm always curious as to spiritual death versus physical death. So, I think that we could talk a little bit about that for a second.
Trina: Yeah, I think that's a really interesting comment. To be quite honest, I don't know the answer. I think that there's a lot of ... What is it, the dead takes on a lot of personification? They seem to have human attributes. Certainly, nobody's expecting them to actually ... We don't expect them to take chomps out of the bread. It's not like that. But I think it's just like the idea of spiritual sustenance, and the fact that everybody wants to be wanted, and everybody wants to be welcomed and remembered. I think a lot of us, humans have that aspect to us that we want to. That's the whole idea of doing something great in life. Is that, we want to be good people and be remembered for what we do.
So, I think that there's this idea that we want to entice them to come back. So, give them spiritual nutrition and things that they need to get here. I think it's a little bit in line with that.
Julia Yeah, I think it's maybe something like the act of making the bread is a spiritual act in a way. So, that's what nourishes the spirit as it comes back to the land of the living, I suppose.
Trina: Right. I think that that's true. I think all of these things that we do, they're about interpersonal experiences. You share it with your family members and your close friends. I think that that is ... I know, it's spiritual moment for me, certainly. It does seem outwardly like it's just this holiday with all of these things, but for me, it's incredibly meaningful. Also, going back to, as I mentioned earlier, when we put photos of the deceased up, that's something that we do every year. When you bring out some of the person's favorite belongings, it can get very emotional.
Trina: For my grandmother's passing, we put out this piece of jewelry that she always used to wear. We have an aunt that used to like to dance. So, we put out ... she loved ballerinas as she discovered it later on in life and was just absolutely fascinated with it. So, we put out some of her ... She actually has a little ballerina figurine and we would put that out for her. When you bring these things out every year, you start to really feel the memories coming back. It is this really visceral experience.
Amanda: Yeah, I imagined so. A lot of the physical aspects of this holiday that you mentioned are really communal activities like baking bread, or making food or going shopping and buying decorations or candles or whatever you're going to use that really appeal to your memory of that person. Which I think is really lovely. Think about decorating your house for someone's birthday party or baking someone a birthday cake, those are the examples that come to mind because they're really loving acts, and they really are you taking time out of your day and thinking about somebody and doing something really special Just for them.
So, it makes complete sense to me that from the outside the Day of the Dead celebrations and birthday parties have a lot in common.
Trina: Yeah. It's great that you pointed that out because it is, you're right about ... Part of it is the process, and making all of these things and participating. A lot of it is the lead up to in addition to the day itself, right?
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely.
Trina: Some of the other cultural symbols that we have are [foreign language 00:28:34] You might see these in Mexican restaurants, they're the paper cutouts. Sometimes they'll have little seems on them or little patterns. These actually aren't limited to Day of the Dead. They're also around during Christmas time. But during the day of the dead holiday specifically, they represent the fragility of life. If you've seen these really thin papers that blow in the wind and they just look very delicate, and reminds us just how fragile life is.
Amanda: Oh, that's beautiful. I love that.
Trina: I think so too. Also, there's these interesting symbols. Remember, I talked about the holiday being one of two cultures, right? Sometimes you'll see indigenous symbols and traffic samples. I think one of the interesting things about being like Mexican American is that we're this fusion of two, in some cases conflicting things. For indigenous symbols, you'll see things like marigolds. Sometimes you'll see shells, and also what they call Copal incense. It's a tree resin that they burn and it gives a smell.
A lot of these are really to appeal to the senses of the spirits. The marigolds you can see because they're just very orange, yellow and color, almost golden and you can hear the shells. The copal incense, you could also smell those. So, it really is about appealing to the senses. Then we have more Catholic symbols too, like rosary beads, Virgin Mary candles, crucifixes, all of those have been present on family altar.
Julia Oh, that's beautiful.
Amanda: Yeah, especially the sensory grounding. That's really amazing to me to almost picturing the dead floating by or being ambient and yet it's this perfect concoction of smells and sounds and tastes that appeal to them.
Julia Yeah, the physicality of it all.
Amanda: Yeah, that help to anchor and to bring them back. Also, I imagine they're really evocative of memory. My grandfather who passed a few years ago ate [inaudible 00:30:38], caramel candies every day. Every time I see them in a store I think of him. I imagined as you said earlier, Trina that having this kind of beautiful collage and collection of not just physical items that belongs to that person, but ones that remind you of them and smells and sounds must be really overwhelming and lovely.
Trina: Yeah, talk about getting the tear ducts going, right? When you do get all the entire 360 experience, shall we say. Yes, it does get quite emotional.
Amanda: So Juls, last episode in our Fe extravaganza, I talked about briefly, St. Anthony, which is the Catholic saint of Lost things. My mom and dad always told me when I would lose something to pray to St. Anthony and hope that I found it. Often that would work, but you know what that doesn't work for?
Julia Your computer stuff.
Amanda: My computer stuff. Where, when I lose an important file or say, an Episode of Spirits, or photos that are meaningful to me, often there is nothing you can do to get those back because the computer overwrites it and on you go. That's not true though, if you have Backblaze. Backblaze is an app that gives you unlimited cloud backup for Macs or PCs at just $5 a month. That is actually unlimited, it doesn't matter how many things you have on your computer, it will upload all of them to the cloud; docs, music, photos, videos, whatever you have all the data for just five bucks a month.
You can restore the files anywhere you are. If you are traveling, you can download them on the web, or if it's really, really big stuff, they'll actually send you a physical hard drive with your stuff on it.
Amanda: Yeah. They have restored over 30 billion files for people. That is no joke. So, if you have a computer, you'd be Backblaze, period. There is no better way to back up your stuff and keep your important things safe. Backblaze.com/spirits will get you a fully featured 15 day free trial. So, hop on there, download it, try it out and see what you think.
Julia Yeah, I know there are people out there in the world that just have the worst luck with computers, just awful. So I think if you are one of those people who experiences the true dread of losing something on your computer that you know you need, and you know you don't want to lose, definitely check out Backblaze. 15 day free trial at backblaze.com/spirits.
Amanda: I was a customer long before they sponsored the show, but I'm so glad they are because this is something that I can recommend to any person out there, and I know that you will enjoy it.
Julia Do you know what I also recommend to people, Amanda?
Amanda: Is it getting something for nothing and raising money for charity for doing literally nothing except for being on your computer?
Julia Isn't that the best feeling? Isn't that the best feeling? I feel like-
Amanda: It's so good.
Julia I feel like every time I open a new tab and I see Tab for a Cause, I feel like it's one more point going to the good place.
Amanda: Oh, that's very sweet. I totally think that's true.
Julia I know. Absolutely. So Tab for a Cause is a browser extension that shows you a pretty photo which is a definite plus when you open a new tab and an ad and it helps raise money for a charity. All you have to do is just download it, do your thing on the internet and you're raising money for a good cause. Every time you open a new tab, you raise money for a good cause. That's the simplest thing in the world.
Amanda: The ads are not obnoxious, the photos are genuinely really pretty, and it doesn't take up a lot of bandwidth on your computer. I know that I have a 2011 MacBook Air, and she is struggling along, but Tab for Cause does not impact her performance at all. It's something that again, just a little thing running in the corner knowing that no matter how many times I open up a certain Instagram account to look at cute animals, I am raising money for charity.
Julia It's so great. If you're like me, where you just have a million tabs open at all times, it makes me feel like less of a bad or unorganized person, and more like I'm raising so much money. So, let's see how much money Team Spirits can raise between now and the end of the year. I know it's only two months until the end of the year. So, go to a tabforacause.com/spirits. Download Tab for a Cause and start raising money for charity right now, right now, and we'll report back at the end of the year to see how much money Team Spirits has raised for charity. So, join us and start clicking today at tabforacause.com/spirits. And now, let's get back to show.
Trina: There are also things outside of the altars as well. Ones that most people are familiar with are the [foreign language 00:35:08]. These are skeletons or skulls. The [foreign language 00:35:11] is actually a skull but it's extended to skeletons as well. You'll see them, they'll be cut out, they'll be drawn, they'll be made out of paper mâché. People will dress like them. It's a ubiquitous symbol of Day of the Dead is skulls.
What you'll notice about these skulls too is that they're pretty joyous figures. All the skulls are pretty happy, they wear festive clothing, they dance, they play musical instruments. All those skeletons and skulls have been around since the origin of the Day of the Dead. The more popular depictions of skeletons are dressed in European clothing, which you'll see a lot of on Day of the Dead. Those didn't come around until around 1910.
Julia Okay, that's pretty late, huh?
Trina: It is very late when you think about it. Yeah. So, I think the Day of the Dead as we know it now, was something that started to evolve in the last 100 years or so. There was this printmaker name, José Guadalupe Posada and he wanted to make a social commentary about the Mexican aristocrats. There was the Mexican aristocracy, they were known as the [inaudible 00:36:23] What he did was he etched these elegant skeletons in European clothing on to ... What he did, he etched these skeletons as a way of saying, despite our vanities, we will all one day turn to dust.
Julia That's totally fair.
Amanda: That's amazing. It's great class commentary.
Trina: Right. It's interesting that Day of the Dead is being used for social commentary as well, and that the skeletons they have a lot of meaning. Not only do they symbolize the dead, but they symbolize a lot of conflict, that there is the conflict of social classes, of being wealthy versus being poor. Ultimately, the fact that we all die in the end. So, I think in that respect, the skulls and skeletons represent something humbling. There's also this aspect of us that is about identity. Where Mexicans are a combination of the indigenous and the Spanish conquerors. That's how it all happened.
Also, just a reminder there as well is to be balanced with both sides and not to surrender too much to one or the other. People celebrate this differently. I mentioned that my family celebrates it one way. If you go to Mexico, they celebrate it another. Even if you go to different regions in Mexico, they will all celebrate it differently.
So, I thought it'd be fun to highlight how some of the people celebrate Day of the Dead just so you can get a sense of the variety.
Amanda: Heck yeah, give me those local traditions. Do it up.
Trina: All right. In Pátzcuaro, which is in central Mexico, people get into these wooden fishing boats. These fishing boats have these wingnuts. They sort of look like butterflies. It's pretty cool.
Julia I'm just really excited already. I love boats and water. So, I'm so [inaudible 00:38:27]
Trina: They'll carry candles on to the boats. What they'll do is they will paddle over to the island of Janitzio at [inaudible 00:38:36] and they'll have an all-night vigil there. Then in [inaudible 00:38:40] which is a village in the southern part of Mexico, they'll create something called sawdust rugs. Let me explain that. They're basically arrangements of colored sawdust. They have petals, rice, pine needles, and all other sorts of materials that they use to make rug like patterns.
They make these patterns in the streets. So, they're used to also signal the dead home. That's a really interesting approach. I hear it's quite beautiful. I've actually never gotten an opportunity to see it, but I would love to one day.
Amanda: That sounds absolutely gorgeous, you're right.
Julia That's amazing.
Trina: There is a tradition in Guatemala which is in Central America, where they celebrate by making these really large kites. They're probably like 20 or 30 feet wide, maybe even larger. You don't really get off the ground very well. But they are quite beautiful and it's again, to serve as a visual symbol to bring the dead home. I believe the way the Guatemalans celebrate it too is they will have smaller kites as well that they'll fly into the skies for day of the Dead in addition to the larger kites.
And then one that I found really interesting, but also very touching in some ways is in Plue mouche. This is a village on the southern tip of Mexico. Some of the villages there will even exhume the bodies of their loved ones after they've been buried for three years, and they'll carefully clean their bones. So, they'll exhume them and then turn them and then dust off their bones and clean them, and then put them back in when they're done.
Julia I love that. That is so interesting to me.
Amanda: Me too. My dad's parents have both passed away and my grandmother in particular, her grave has beautiful hedges around it. So, we would go really frequently or on Mother's Day or on her birthday and trim the hedge. It always felt like some aspect of doing manual labor and cleaning up and just making it lovely and leaving it better than we found it. To me, even though I didn't know her, it made me feel connected to her. So, this is such a beautiful extension and escalation of that idea. I can only imagine how meaningful that is, and how it gives someone something to look forward to or at least mark and honor the time passed in grieving.
Julia I think it's really interesting because it physically embraces what happens to you when you die. It physically understands, oh, okay, this is what is going to happen to our bodies, even if our spirits have moved on.
Trina: Oh, for sure. Yeah. Amanda, when you mentioned taking care of, or maintaining your family's grave site, that's something that's also a part of Day of the Dead for some cultures. In Mexico, what they'll do is they'll go to the cemeteries and they will actually clean up the grave sites as well. So, that's a tradition that both cultures have in common is that they do this.
The way that I grew up in the US, we would go to the cemetery, but I think because of the way cemeteries here are more manicured that wasn't necessarily a part of what we did. But we did, certainly spend time at the grave site just hanging out and being there and being present. I think if anything, it's good to go and just remember, and be present.
That really got me thinking a lot, because I learned in the process of doing this episode is that there is a tradition in Halloween as well of remembering the dead. I had no idea. I would have never known that had I not started researching a little bit for this episode. It turns out that for Halloween, there was a component where souls were said to revisit homes during Halloween and seek hospitality.
Amanda: It's a tradition for Salween, I believe.
Trina: Yes, right. Which is interesting because, I guess what we hear about now more is the tradition of wearing costumes that represents spirits. You never really get to hear the other side of this. What I also learned is that families would set a place at the dinner table or by the fire to welcome their return. So, a sort of homecoming if you will.
Amanda: I have this narrative in my head that there may be an origin to Halloween costumes where people would try to disguise themselves in case vengeful spirits came back at this moment when the veil between worlds was at its thinnest. Did I completely make that up? Julia, do you have any idea here?
Julia Kind of. The thing with Salween was the dressing would occur because you wanted to see if your neighbors had done the hostly thing for their deceased relatives. So, you would dress up as a spirit and show up to your neighbor's door and be like, "Hey, did you save a place for so and so at your table?"
Amanda: Yeah. So cool. I love Halloween.
Trina: It's interesting to hear that there are these traditions on Halloween as well. It really made me wonder a little bit about Día de los Muertos and the direction that it's going in. Because it's becoming more popular. And also people are starting to celebrate it, it's becoming mainstream in some sense. I wonder over time, if it's going to be more like Halloween? Because obviously, there were these traditions that Halloween had in honoring the dead.
Although it sounds like some people still know about that. Obviously, the more popular one is dressing up in costumes. For Day of the Dead we have a tradition of dressing up like skeletons too. For those who celebrate the processions and the more public displays will dress up as skeletons. Part of me wonders, I don't know, in 50 years, will this be in some sense, will this merge into Halloween? I don't quite know yet.
Amanda: I wonder ... It's hard. I'm trying to think of a way to discuss this in a way that's sensitive without being like, white people like to culturally appropriate things that they find suddenly to be beautiful.
Julia I think that's a fair assessment.
Amanda: I don't want to ask you to speak to something that you aren't prepared to speak to. But, I don't know.
Trina: It was something that I certainly ... I just was fascinated by the idea of it. It's interesting to see where it's going. I know for me personally, I really like that other people celebrate Day of the Dead. I think it's great that a lot of people find meaning in this holiday. Like I said earlier, we all will die eventually. I feel like if people see it as an outlet, as a way to manage their grief, remember old ones, whatever it is, I think that that's really important, and I'm glad that this holiday can be around for it. Also, because I feel like this is a holiday that is just the contribution of many things. I feel that it can continue to evolve and change, and I'm okay with that to a certain degree. I think for me personally, as long as it keeps its sentiment, that's really what matters to me is that it still has the meaning that I certainly can tie it in just to my memories of family still, I think.
It's like all Christmas, for example in my in my opinion. You have the two camps at Christmas. One group saying, "Oh, my goodness, it's so commercialized, I can't stand it anymore." Then you have this other camp that still finds meaning in it? Maybe the answer is, is that it really comes down to your own personal experience, and what you make of it. Sometimes it will be a commercialized thing, but if you take time to honor the traditions, and remember the dead and all that, then I think it could be a different experience, something that still is meaningful. It retains the value for the heart.
Amanda: Yeah. And a big part of why we do this show is to learn about how people deal with, think about, tell stories about the world, and how they have done so throughout time. But it always ... We can't help but making ties back to our personal lives and circumstances and challenges and joys. I love that different traditions challenge me to ask how I can better honor things in my life, or better make space for me to mark the changing of seasons. Or it's a deal with loss of my own heritage or death.
Trina: Right. For me, I think what was impactful after researching for this was that there is a lot of things that unite us. This holiday comes out of indigenous culture, Salween comes out of the Celtic culture. I see a lot of similarities in the history. I think if anything, it made me feel that something that I thought maybe just my family celebrated when I was younger, because it wasn't popularized when I was younger, so I thought this was something only my family did.
In fact, I remember a particular situation where I had some friends coming home from school and they see an altar in your home and they think you worship the dead, right? Sometimes it seems like a clash of cultures or something that maybe only you celebrate. But I felt that what I learned through this is that really, there's a lot of things that unify us. Like you said, a lot of cultures are figuring out how to address death and they do it in their own ways. But you'll find these threads of commonality. I think that was really meaningful to me.
Amanda: Isn't it schlocky phrase that underneath it all, we're all human? Everyone has a skeleton down below? And it's all the rest of the stuff that gives life meaning and makes life beautiful. And this is not to erase people's difference whatsoever. But it is, I think, not a coincidence. It sounds that it's skeletons that boil people down to what remains, and that is one of the only things that you can use as a unifying image. It's going to make me think a little bit differently about skeletons when I see them out and about in the world.
Julia Do you see a lot of skeletons out and about in the world?
Amanda: Not walking around, Julia. No, on banners and the medical skeletons.
Julia I'm just checking. I'm worried about your life if you're seeing skeletons on the reg.
Amanda: Oh, no, I would definitely open up the episode by telling you about the skeletons that I saw that week. Skeleton Watch.
Trina: At least, I guess this way ... It's just to present a different. A different side to the Halloween and to the skeleton, and what that symbolizes certainly. If you want to participate in Day of the Dead this year, since it is Halloween, you still have a few days. It's not until November 2nd. If that's something you're interested in participating in, you can certainly look online, because there are a lot of public celebrations, especially like metropolitan areas now. I'm sure that you can find something. And it seems like the community is very welcoming at anything from, like I said, processions, or museums will have something. Its become a big way to showcase Mexican art. So, that is something that's available to you as well.
Amanda: That is a great suggestion. Trina, thank you so much for coming and telling us this really personal story and tradition that you and your family share. So, we very, very much appreciate it and what a lovely way to close out maybe, our favorite month of the year, and certainly of the podcast, but we really appreciate it.
Trina: Thank you so much. It was a pleasure being here, and Happy Halloween.
Julia Happy Halloween. Would you like to plug your stuff one more time just for the listeners to remind them what you're doing?
Trina: Oh, okay, yes. I usually run a website called msbeautyphile.com. It's actually also a YouTube channel. I talk about the science behind beauty.
Julia Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much, Trina. Remember our listeners to stay creepy.
Amanda: Stay cool.