LAGRULLA, Texas _ The first event the Martinez family got home in time to celebrate was �MDUL�Dia de los Muertos�MDNM� (Day of the Dead) _ a traditional Hispanic celebration.
In many Hispanic communities throughout the United States, �MDUL�Dia de los Muertos�MDNM� is commemorated on Nov. 2. This day is set aside to honor and remember departed loved ones.
Saturday morning, Nov. 2, Raul and Maria Elena Martinez awoke early to go into �MDUL�el pueblo�MDBO��MDNM� _ the town of Rio Grande _ to purchase colorful, decorative funeral wreaths. Later, they went to the cemetery to clean and place the wreath on the grave of Maria Elena's father.
``My mother reminded me last night about �MDUL�Dia de los Muertos�MDNM�,'' Maria Elena said. ``She told me, `You don't even remember your poor father anymore.'^''
�MDUL�Dia de los Muertos�MDNM� is a centuries-old Hispanic//Indian tradition, blending pagan and Roman Catholic beliefs. It dates back to before the time Columbus came to the New World, when people accepted death as a natural transition from life, honoring their dead in ceremonies sometimes lasting months.
On this day, relatives of those who have died prepare altars and �MDUL�ofrendas�MDNM� in their honor. The altars, which are usually placed in the home, includes all the things the people enjoyed while alive. �MDUL�Ofrendas�MDNM� usually will display the loved one's photo, the person's favorite food and drink, candles, cigarettes and marigolds, the traditional flower of the dead.
Other traditional items are sugar �MDUL�calaveras�MDNM�, fruit punch and �MDUL�pan de muerto�MDNM�, a traditional Day of the Dead bread.
At the cemeteries, relatives of the dead will clear out weeds, rake and sweep around the grave and place fresh flowers. Some families will spend the entire day at the cemetery, and Mass is sometimes celebrated at Catholic cemeteries.
``We will clean up around the grave and place floral wreaths, but it's not too big of a tradition in our family,'' Maria Elena said. ``But for a lot of people around here it is. You should see the cemetery on that day. It looks so beautiful with all the flowers and ribbons.''
Maria Elena and Raul were the only members of the family who decided to pay a visit to the grave site; however, Charlie, 15, decided to stop by later to see his grandfather's grave.
``I like to come by sometimes, but not too often,'' Charlie said, not giving further explanation.
At the cemetery he looked around, seeing others clean the grave sites. He walked around reading tombstones, fixed the flowers on his grandfather's grave, then quietly left.