History of Day of the Dead ~ Dia de los Muertos
The following information is from MexicanSugarSkull.com.
Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico during the chilly days of November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul's & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.
They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.
Mexico, abundant in sugar production and too poor to buy fancy imported European church decorations, learned quickly from the friars how to make sugar art for their religious festivals. Clay molded sugar figures of angels, sheep and sugar skulls go back to the Colonial Period 18th century.There is a lot of information at that site. Please check it out. The FAQ page has information on how sugar skulls are made and about the Day of the Dead.
Sugar Skull, the second book by Denise Hamilton featuring Eve Diamond, LA Times reporter, starts out a few days before Dia de los Muertos. The celebration features prominently in the plot.
The review at Publisher's Weekly provides a good overview:
[F]eisty Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond is anxious to advance from the Valley to a more prestigious desk downtown. She gets her chance when, while writing the roundup of weekend murders, she's confronted by a man frantic to find his runaway daughter. Then the nude body of beautiful socialite Venus Della Viglia Langdon, wife of mayoral candidate Carter Langdon III, turns up in the couple's pool. These two seemingly unconnected occurrences reverberate across the vast urban sprawl that is home to one of the country's most diverse populations. The Mexican Day of the Dead festivities are in progress, and the little sugar skulls given to mark the occasion appear in the strangest places. Eve is soon immersed in the down and dirty worlds of runaways, a high-powered political campaign and the exploding Latin music scene—and caught up in a torrid affair with Silvio Aguilar, son of a music-industry tycoon and Venus's brother.What I liked:
- The depiction of Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
- The portions of the story that dealt with teenage runaways.
- The portrayal of a strong female character with flaws.
- The pacing. Kept me entertained and interested.
- Not cozy at all but not depressing or downbeat either.
The first book in the series, Jasmine Trade, is about "parachute kids," the rich Asian teens who live alone in California while their parents run businesses in Hong Kong. Last Lullaby is set in the world of international adoptions and drug smuggling. Savage Garden explores the theater scene. The fifth book in the series, Prisoner of Memory, is set among L.A.’s Russian immigrant community. I think all of those topics are going to be interesting.
I am fascinated by Denise Hamilton's background and how she has used it in her books and shared her knowledge of LA.
From an interview at The New Mystery Reader:
I’m a first generation American. My mother was a Russian/French immigrant and we spoke French at home. My husband’s parents were immigrants. His mother lives with us and we speak Spanish at home because she’s more comfortable with that language. So a multicultural, multi-ethnic society is second nature to me. Plus living in LA, in a suburb that is majority minority -- heavily Armenian, Russian, Korean and Latino -- it just feels right. As to poverty, we didn’t have much money and I had academic scholarships all through school or I wouldn’t have made it, so I know that world too, though certainly not the dire poverty of some of my characters. Still, it’s never escaped me that so many people on this planet struggle just to survive, and that our materialistic society often overlooks these people, at least in popular culture. I know that what I write is popular culture – if my books don’t entertain you and keep you up way past your bedtime, then I haven’t done my job. But while I’m writing page-turners, I’m also interested in talking about marginal characters whose struggle is utterly compelling to me, whether it’s caused by poverty, race, class, ethnicity, crime or a mixture of these.-----------------------------
Publisher: Scribner, 2003
Length: 295 pages
Series: Eve Diamond #2
Setting: Southern California
Source: I purchased my copy.
Photo by Nathaniel C. Sheetz at Wikipedia Commons.