Hispanics honor dearly departed

PONTOTOC – An offering of sweet, Mexican pastry serves as a small reminder of the man she loved.
“I will leave this for Francisco, my late husband,” said Laticia Vidana, a member of St. Christopher Catholic Church in Pontotoc.
On Sunday the young window placed Francisco’s picture on a table in the back of the church. It sits there along with flowers, candied skulls and clusters of fragrant flowers, symbols of a three-day observance that hangs like a thin burial shroud over Hispanic-American culture.
People of every race and religion commune with their dead, and the Day of the Dead is no different. It roughly corresponds to All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are observed in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches on Nov. 1 and 2.
“We’re not worshipping our ancestors,” said Vidana. “We’re just praying for them. We’re feeling their presence and giving thanks for them.”
Children in Northeast Mississippi are still snacking on bags of candy they collected on Halloween night, when they canvassed neighborhoods dressed as skeletons, witches and ghosts. It’s much the same for Hispanic children.
Sunday they helped their parents stack sweets on the altar as they prayed for their deceased relatives. On Wednesday they’ll partake of a feast of sweets worthy of a fairytale.
“As a child, I was always afraid that something would come and get me if I took candy too early,” said Enrique Baptista, who today will leave fruit on the altar for his grandfather, also named Francisco.
For Sister Soledad Mendoza, coordinator of Hispanic ministry at St. Christopher, the Day of the Dead is a unique and beautiful expression, a folkway of an immigrant culture whose dead are buried thousands of miles away.
“We cannot visit the cemeteries with flowers and gifts and songs,” she said. “But, we can come together to pray and to remember.”
Contact Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.