Abstract

“Cemeteries could be regarded as non-social spaces due to a believed negligible amount of daily social activity between the living, the dead and the space. At the same time, the spaces of the dead are regarded as spiritually charged, dangerous and even polluted. My paper suggests that the spaces of the dead, such as the cemeteries of Mexico City, are clear examples of dynamically active memory-making spaces in which the dead are daily revered, socialised and memorialised through a combination of secular and religious contemporary funerary practices, the daily interaction between the living, the dead, the ánima and material culture. The paper analyses the phenomenon, socio-cultural and political conditions of the objectification of the dead in the internal and external spaces of the cemetery. The paper includes the investigation of life histories of its workers, mourners and daily visitors in order to explore why various communities in Mexico City have embraced and revered the materialisation and objectification of the dead such as the following of the Santa Muerte. This paper then digs deeper into the array of meanings interwoven into the fabrics of social life and spiritual stability of the living, in which the widespread embrace of material culture plays a dynamic role in the contemporary social rituals dedicated to the dead in the cemeteries of a megalopolis.” p.107

Reyes-Cortez, M. 2012: Material culture, magic and the Santa Muerte in the cemeteries of a megalopolis. Visible Religions, in Culture and Religion: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol.13, No.1, (March, Routledge), pp. 107-131.

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.

European Social Science History Conference, April 2012.

Abstract: ‘Visual research in the cemeteries of Mexico City: Photography, a social research method’

My visual research project explores how through daily and yearly cycles, the bereaved, mourners and workers develop and maintain intricate funerary rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Mexico City. Commemorative visual and material culture both religious and secular already plays an important role in mourners’ everyday life and activities. A more extensive use of the photograph and the practice of photography became a valuable social research tool, especially when looking at the exchanges and interactions between the dead, memory and the visual material worlds that assist the living, the dead and the ánima (spirit/soul) to stay connected in the spaces in which they interact.

I have chosen to explore the above social and cultural processes in part through a visual methodology, documenting meticulously through photographs as well as text the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. The practice of photography eased and speeded the entry into the cemetery and mourners private and public spaces, it also opened access to the possibilities of collaboratory encounters within the field and with those people with whom I was working. Thus, I examined and extensively recorded through photography the cyclical memorialising and mourning practices, ritualised routines, and daily habits associated with the dead and the cemetery space in the borough of Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City. A visual methodology in combination with traditional ethnographic methods such as participant observation, formal and informal interviews, investigation of life histories of the bereaved, mourners, visitors and workers with an overview of contemporary Mexican funerary practices in Mexico City offered the project a productive instrument, providing a more nuanced understanding of the bereaved and mourner’s ideas about their relationships with the dead.

11-14 April 2012: ‘European Social Science History Conference’

Programme: University of Glasgow

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

Visual research in the cemeteries of Mexico City

  Wednesday, 11 April 2012 00:00
  Events

European Social Science History Conference, April 2012.

Abstract: ‘Visual research in the cemeteries of Mexico City: Photography, a social research method’

My visual research project explores how through daily and yearly cycles, the bereaved, mourners and workers develop and maintain intricate funerary rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Mexico City. Commemorative visual and material culture both religious and secular already plays an important role in mourners’ everyday life and activities. A more extensive use of the photograph and the practice of photography became a valuable social research tool, especially when looking at the exchanges and interactions between the dead, memory and the visual material worlds that assist the living, the dead and the ánima (spirit/soul) to stay connected in the spaces in which they interact.

I have chosen to explore the above social and cultural processes in part through a visual methodology, documenting meticulously through photographs as well as text the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. The practice of photography eased and speeded the entry into the cemetery and mourners private and public spaces, it also opened access to the possibilities of collaboratory encounters within the field and with those people with whom I was working. Thus, I examined and extensively recorded through photography the cyclical memorialising and mourning practices, ritualised routines, and daily habits associated with the dead and the cemetery space in the borough of Álvaro Obregón, Mexico City. A visual methodology in combination with traditional ethnographic methods such as participant observation, formal and informal interviews, investigation of life histories of the bereaved, mourners, visitors and workers with an overview of contemporary Mexican funerary practices in Mexico City offered the project a productive instrument, providing a more nuanced understanding of the bereaved and mourner’s ideas about their relationships with the dead.

11-14 April 2012: ‘European Social Science History Conference’

Programme: University of Glasgow

Panteón Jardín de México

  Saturday, 01 September 2007 00:00

Panteón Jardín, a modern multi-faith cemetery built in the 1930s and is a prime example of how the social rituals that exist in the spaces of the living are reflected through the spatiality and location of the dead.

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