When I first moved to San Antonio, the places to see flowers and foods placed on graves to encourage visits from their inhabitants were the old San Fernando Cemeteries. Most of the wrinkled pilgrims picnicking with their deceased loved ones on All Saints and All Souls Days, November 1 and 2, appeared poised to repose alongside them. The remnants of the Dia de los Muertos traditions enduring from when San Antonio had been part of Mexico were dying with them.
Bedoy’s Bakery, founded in 1961, credits Father Virgil Elizondo with encouraging the bakers to dust off traditional old recipes for dead bread, pan de muerto. I used to buy the breads around Halloween, but felt guilty when we selfishly ate them without offering to share them with the dead.
In the past decade or two, artists in San Antonio began adding contemporary twists to ancient Day of the Dead traditions, and now the city sponsors a full-blown fiesta for Dia de los Muertos in La Villita. Altars, processions and even a concert by Girl in a Coma were part of this year’s event, held a bit early because the city’s Day of the Dead calendar is getting more crowded.
While a far cry from the celebrations we witnessed outside of and in San Cristobal de las Casas last November, San Antonio’s spirited version represents traditions worth reviving and refreshing for new generations.
Although I cannot comprehend why the marketing department at Coca-Cola is not all over sponsorship opportunities for this event. In Mexico, Coca-Cola dominates the graveyard market in San Juan Chamula, Chiapas:
One would think a people who have rejected so many standards held by outsiders would not consider taking even one sip of a Coca-Cola. But expelling evil spirits from the body is key. Spitting helps, but burping is best. And what is better at inducing burping than a few shots of rapidly consumed Coke….
But, what marketing genius convinced the Chamulans a half-century ago to incorporate Coke into not only their Sunday church-going regimen, but everyday life? I mean, Chamulans need to continually maintain their guard against those invasive evil spirits, burping them out on a regular basis.
And whoever the lucky holder of the local bottling franchise is really struck a home run with this. The market is larger than just the living. On Dia de los Muertos, even the dead are served Cokes to quench their parched throats from so much time spent underground and to burp away any evil spirits hanging around the cemetery.
Just think how large Coca-Cola’s market share would soar if this practice spread to the dead everywhere.
Here are some posts from last year in Chiapas, Mexico:
- Postcard from San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico: Grooming Graves to Welcome Back the Dead
- Postcard from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: On the Marigold Trail to Dia de los Muertos
- Postcard from Romerillo, Chiapas, Mexico: Day of the Dead Mudfest
- Postcard from San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico: Dia de los Muertos Part of Urban Fabric
- Postcard from San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, Mexico: Coke is for Everyone, Dead or Alive