One of the things we appreciate most about international travel is that it’s always presenting us with new perspectives on how to live. But perhaps one of the most striking differences as we travel abroad is how other cultures perceive and honor death and dying.
Stepping through the gate at Cementario Nueva Esperanza just outside of Lima, Peru on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or Dia de los Difuntos was one of those perspective expanding moments that will be forever etched in our sensory experience. Thousands of families from all over Peru had come to one of the largest cemeteries on Earth to commune with their departed. This meant offering favorite foods, a dram of beer and signaling over one of dozens of bands to play the dearly departed’s favorite melody. Dancing, drinking and telling stories in the presence of those that have gone before as a way of honoring their memory – keeping them alive by swapping tales that fill one with simultaneous joy and sorrow.
It’s a ritual that encourages those memories keep being shared, out loud, with all those who may remember. While this tradition is one we’d never see at a cemetery here in the US, it was moving to see what it means for families who come to reconnect with those spirits in a communal setting – and made us rethink our own rituals for keeping those cherished memories alive.