Mi abuela no es un cadáver

  Thursday, 08 May 2014 00:00

Jornada de Antropología – Representación visual del daño y del sufrimiento social

8 May 2014, Madrid

Departamento de Antropología Social y Cultural de la UNED, en la Escuela Pías

‘Mi abuela no es un cadáver’

Recordando los Muertos en los cementerios de Álvaro Obregón, Ciudad de México.

En este artículo voy a considerar cómo la cultura material especialmente la fotografía, apoya la continuidad de las relaciones entre los vivos y los muertos. La investigación reveló cómo personas y actividades giraban en torno a los esfuerzos sostenidos por los dolientes, visitantes y trabajadores del cementerio para activamente mantener a los muertos como participantes en la vida de los vivos. En este artículo muestro cómo la cultura material puede proporcionar el vehículo a través del cual se pueden expresar las relaciones sociales con los muertos, y al mismo tiempo hablando con y expresar las características particulares de la persona muerta. Los mismos conjuntos de objetos y fotografías crean las condiciones para nuevas experiencias que están inevitablemente ligados al proceso de recordar a los muertos

The forgotten dead of a Megalopolis

  Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00

The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal 10th International Conference, Sept 2011.

Portraits of Remembrance

  Sunday, 30 September 2007 00:00

Reyes-Cortez on Portraits of Remembrance

“When I die, I want to be buried with her. We met at school when she was 15 years old, 

and I love her now, as much as I did then, when we first met over 50 years ago.” 

The cemeteries of Mexico City


“. . . Her eyes look straight ahead, as if looking at Don Francisco talking to her, the eyes of the image reciprocates the viewer’s gaze. I suggest that at this moment the materiality of the photograph is transformed and the photograph transcends the object, it protects the dead from the ephemeral human body, overcoming the absence of the person. I suggest that the photograph preserves traces of memory and personhood, shifted from the decomposing flesh in the coffin or a cremated body in a cinerary urn to the social body of the photograph. Portraits of remembrance protect the invincibility of the dead as a social person, making the dead visible through the relationships and the value entrusted to the material/spiritual image by its mourners and visitors . . .” p.48-49.

Reyes-Cortez, M. 2010: Communicating with the Dead: Social Visibility in the Cemeteries of Mexico City, in Die Realität des Todes: Zum gegenwärtigen Wandel von Totenbildern und Erinnerungskulturen (Visibility of Death) by Dominik GroßChristoph Schweikardt (edts), pp.33-62, Campus Verlag, Germany.

Upstairs @ the RAI, Friday 31 October, 2014, 5pm

Royal Anthropological Institute

Memorialising and Commemorating the Dead in Mexico City: A critical look at the Mexican Day of the Dead

Research Seminar followed by some tasters with Dr Marcel Reyes-Cortez, Goldsmiths, University of London

In Mexico City, the dead are very present in popular culture and are manifested in the spaces of the living, for example in art, photography, cinema, literature, music, gastronomy and political rhetoric. Claudio Lomnitz argues that death and the dead in Mexico have been turned into a national ‘totem’. This social phenomenon has developed some unique social and cultural practices. This seminar will show how people symbolically represent the dead in order to include them in their social and living spaces and create memory and immortality through material culture and photographic portraits.

Through daily and yearly cycles, people develop and maintain intricate rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Alvaro Obregon, Mexico City. The conjoined landscapes of the living and the dead are spaces of personal and collective grief, charged with emotions, loaded with ethical and moral obstacles and obligations. Based on his PhD field research, Marcel Reyes-Cortez documents the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. This involves long-term relationships and a range of activities (cemetery workers, flower-growers, coffin makers, etc.).


Please book your free place: http://rai-day-of-the-dead.eventbrite.com

Royal Anthropological Institute
50 Fitzroy Street
London, W1T 5BT, United Kingdom


The forgotten dead of a Megalopolis

  Friday, 09 September 2011 00:00

The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal,
10th International Conference, Sept 2011.

Abstract: ‘My grandmother is not a ‘corpse’: The forgotten dead of a Megalopolis’

The cemetery space could be argued or understood to be a social, political, socio-culturally dynamic and sociomythic space, yet when the dead die alone, without identity, then a cemetery takes on a darker and sinister twist. My paper explores how a cemetery in a megalopolis such as Mexico City turns into a waste dump for the carcass of the human body. In this context if a person in Mexico City is unknown and its body unclaimed by its family or friends, the dead ends striped of its role as a social person, dehumanised and treated as waste, a corpse or a pile of bones, striped of its human dignity. There are instances more common than not were the dignity and humanity of the dead has been excluded from the overall complexity of current Mexican funerary practices. This paper will look particularly at the forgotten dead that find their final resting place in common unmarked graves, such as the ones located in Panteón Civil de Dolores, Mexico D.F.

This paper addresses why people persist in maintaining a relationship with their dead, exploring the social and cultural tools that are used to extend the dead’s biographical narratives such as secular and religious commemorative objects and the photographic portrait. ‘Not letting go’ is of fundamental value for my research participants as striping the dead from their humanity could place us in danger of excluding ourselves from becoming dynamic members of the human community when we die.

9-12 Sept: The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal, 10th International Conference’

Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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