Photo in the News: Modern Maya Perform Ancient "Dia de los Muertos" Rites

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October 31, 2006—Giving a slightly different meaning to the phrase "respect your elders," seven-year-old Maya Indian Litzy Moo pays homage to the bones of her grandmother on October 29, 2006.

The skeletal remains rest on top of a newly embroidered cloth that will soon line the wooden crate where the woman's body is buried in the village of Pomuch, Mexico, about 838 miles (1,349 kilometers) from Mexico City (map of Mexico).

Each year Maya Indians clean the remains of their departed loved ones during a ritual leading up to the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Celebrated on November 1 and 2, the holiday represents a blend of ancient indigenous beliefs and a pair of Catholic holy days.

(Related news: "Mexico's Cemeteries Host Día de los Muertos Parties" [November 2, 2005].)

During the celebration families across Mexico arrive in local cemeteries to decorate graves with signature trinkets such as calaveras (sugar skulls) and papel picado (paper skeleton streamers). The party lasts all night, with people sharing food and drink as they spend the night among the dead.

"For me it's a very special day, one that is very religious," Mexico native Teresa Hernandez, now of Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Charlotte Observer. "This is really to celebrate the living. To say that life never ends. They might leave this world, but their spirit continues."

—Victoria Gilman

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