Video: Gifts from Mexico: Revitalizing Life Through the Day of the Dead Celebration


Harvard Professor Davíd Carrasco discusses the symbolism and significance of the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico and its expansion and influence in the United States. The event opens with remarks by Mexico’s Consul General in Boston, Emilio Rabasa Gamboa.


Davíd Carrasco, Neil L. Rudenstine Professor of the Study of Latin America, is a Mexican American historian of religions with particular interest in Mesoamerican cities as symbols, and the Mexican-American borderlands.

Recorded 11/1/17


[00:00:18.15] I want to, first of all, thank the Consul General Emilio Rabasa for being here tonight. His work prior to coming to Boston and since he and his wife have come to Boston, has absolutely made a very significant impact in a positive way, not only on the Mexican community here in Boston, but also in a way in which other people are starting to understand and receive what I call the gifts from Mexicans. So thank you very much for coming, Emilio, you and your wife.

[00:00:49.47] And I also want to thank Jane Pickering. Jane Pickering has carried the productivity and the creativity of the Harvard Museum system to a higher level of, not only public recognition, but also in terms of the way in which the staff has been able to produce some of the great exhibitions that are going on here. And I certainly want to thank all of those people who are involved in setting up the third floor and the first floor of the museum for the Dia de los Muertos, but especially Diana Xochitl Munn, let's give her and all of them a round of applause.

[00:01:33.67] And while we're giving applause, I want to also thank the students and Professor Fash. And my course, Moctezuma's Mexico, Then and Now, when you go up to the third floor and you see the altar that is in the middle of the exhibition hall, you'll see there some of the contributions that our students have made toward the exhibition of the Day of the Dead. That's something that Bill Fash I have encouraged them to do each year. And this year they've been usually productive in providing decorations. So I want to thank all of you for this, all of you for coming out tonight.

[00:02:13.10] The title of my talk is Gifts from Mexico-- Revitalizing Life Through the Day of the Dead Celebration. Now we live in a time when people don't think of Mexico and Mexicans as particularly bringing gifts. Because in the political atmosphere in which we live, we've heard things said about Mexico and Mexicans that would lead you to think that the people, some of them who have been here for 300 years, some of them who contribute tremendously to the economy and the culture of this country, are somehow menaces.

[00:02:53.51] And I'm here to tell you that that's not only not true, but we need to pay attention to the gifts that come from Mexico and Mexicans. And one of those guests is certainly El Dia de lose Muertos. And in speaking about the gifts, I want to just have you look at this mural that is from Diego Rivera. So for me, the main gift that we are celebrating tonight, what Mexicans bring, is what we call convivencia.

[00:03:21.32] And we see a sense of convivencia in this imagery. You see Porfirio Diaz. We see Malinche. We see Jose Marti from Cuba. And we also see in the middle, La Catrina. And it represents the capacity of Mexicans to live together with this kind of diversity, indigenous, Cuban, Mestizo, but also death itself. And in this painting, we get a clue of what I mean by the gifts. Here we see Benito Juarez. We also have here Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz. And we have Maximilian. We have a representation of the Catholic Church.

[00:04:14.10] And what I want to do is utilize this type of diversity to talk about three types of convivencia that I think are represented in the Day of the Dead. First of all, I want to talk about family convivencia, my family's convivencia. Secondly, I want to talk about Jose Clemente Orozco and Toni Morrison, who shared a convivencia. And thirdly, I want to come to the Peabody Museum convivencia, where we see these gifts from Mexico.

[00:04:41.28] And I want to begin to set the tone for your appreciation of these gifts with this very powerful passage from one of the great writers from Mexico, great poets, Octavio Paz, who in a book called The Labyrinth of Solitude says this about Mexico's capacity for convivencia. To me convivencia means living together in order to give life the upper hand over death. That's what convivencia means to me. You live together in order to give life the upper hand over death, death which you take seriously, which you know is inevitable, which you know is around us. But there are ways to work together, to celebrate together, to do art together, to love together, that gives us a step up over death. And Dia de Los Muertos is about that.

[00:05:35.61] Here's what Octavio Paz says. "The history of Mexico is the history of a man seeking his parentage, his origins. He," we could say she, "has been influenced at one time or another by France, Spain, the United States and the militant indigenous of his own country, and he crosses history like a jade comet, now and then giving off flashes of lightning. What is he pursuing in his eccentric course?

[00:06:06.80] He wants to go back beyond the catastrophe he suffered. He wants to be a son again, to return to the center of that life from which he was separated one day. Was that day the Conquest? Independence? Our solitude, our Mexican solitude, has the same roots as religious feelings. It is a form of orphanhood, an obscure awareness that we have been torn from the All and an ardent search, a flight, and a return, an effort to re-establish the bonds that unite us with the universe."

[00:06:43.50] So let me talk about my sense of family convivencia and give you a sense of how I'm approaching this year's Day of the Dead. So my grandfather, Miguel Carrasco, who came across the border during the Mexican Revolution, set up in El Paso, Texas on this landscape, a school. And this school became known as the Smelter Vocational School. And this school was for Mexicans to learn the trades, to learn the trades so that they could not only have jobs, but they could raise their families.

[00:07:16.46] But in my grandfather's approach to education, the effort was also always on how to become a citizen, how to become a neighbor, how to use your education not only to earn money, but to earn respect, to earn community. And his way of teaching education was also in some way about social justice. And this is what I was raised on. And here is where the school was, here in the desert. The Mexicans, the northern Mexicans, many of them are desert people. My people were desert people. They came out of the desert. And this school was right here on this location.

[00:07:48.57] This is the American Smelting and Refining Company. At one time, it had the largest industrial, the highest industrial smokestack in world. And what it did, it polluted the lives of so many of the Mexicans and people who worked there. But this is what came to me from my grandfather. And this is what I mean by convivencia. The convivencia here was between knowledge and citizenship, between learning and trying to also do something that was socially good for the community.

[00:08:15.01] Here, you see my grandparents. This is my grandmother Carlota, my grandfather. When we were children, with my grandmother, we noticed that she had very dark skin, [SPANISH]. And so we also know that this skin represented her own indigenous Mestizo identity. We often asked her, well, how come you have such beautiful skin? And she would say, well, I have a secret ingredient. We'd say, well, tell us what the secret ingredient is. And she said, well, get close and I'll whisper it to you. And so we would get close to her. She would say, the secret ingredient is prayer, prayer, prayer, and good cosmetics.

[00:08:54.26] And what this taught me as a Mexican American was that I had to have some sort of orientation to prayer, that is, to be open to relationships that were not just made by humans. I had to be open to relationships with God and spirits and ancestors and forces that I might not have control over, but who I could develop relationships with. There was a sense of opening to the presence.

[00:09:19.44] But also there was cosmetics. And for me this meant a sense of learning about technique, learning about the cosmology of each person, how you presented yourself, and what it meant to socially relate. And it's wonderful tonight, because we see a number of people here in the audience with these masks that they've painted themselves. They've put on another cosmology that, in a sense, reflects what my grandmother was saying.

[00:09:44.10] But what was really important to me growing up as a 10-year-old was that my Mexican American father really taught me what convivencia meant. Because when my father became the first head basketball coach of a major university in this country, the first Mexican American basketball coach to be a head coach at an American University, at that time, if you can believe it or not in Washington DC, Georgetown, and at George Washington in Maryland, they only allowed white people to play in their college sports until my father got to Washington DC. And he took me, as a 10-year-old, down into the neighborhoods in upper Cardozo and Dunbar and so forth and began to make relationships and friendships with African-Americans who joined the team.

[00:10:25.68] And this is the first integrated team in the history of Washington DC, right here. You're looking at them, right here. And what was impressive to me is you see these African-Americans and these Anglo Americans, and it was a brown man, it was a border man, it was a Mexican man who put this together. And this taught me, as a Mexican American, that we can lead the way. We can be part of this convivencia. It's not just about Mexicans knowing Mexicans and blacks knowing blacks.

[00:10:51.66] And so this came to me as something that was very important. And that sort of set me up to see Mexican conceptions of convivencia outside of Mexico in the United States and that they could do a kind of social good. His own life and contributions resulted in the people in El Paso making this mural of his life. He set up a job corps center. And It became known as the Carrasco Job Corps Center after he passed away. And here you see him, you see him looking over the Mexican desert with African-American students and white students and Edward James Olmos.

[00:11:24.51] And so my sense of convivencia, you see, came to me this way. I'm here in the mural, too. This is me, quetzalcoatl. This is my mother here. He used to call her lechucita. She had these big eyes, these big owl eyes. And so this was my sense that I bring to this idea of the gift of convivencia. Secondly, I want to talk about this mural by the great Jose Clemente Orozco. Because when we go upstairs and we look at the ofrendas, we're going to feel really good about it. We're going to see the beauty of it. They're soft. As the consul said, this is a great celebration.

[00:12:02.61] But I don't want you to think that Mexicans don't bring a sense of great suffering and a great sense of death, historically, to themselves. And Orozco was one of the Mexican painters who really insisted that people come to grips with this history, this history of suffering within Mexico itself. And so I want to just take you through a quick tour of some of these catastrophes that lead to the answer as to why the Day of the Dead is so important, no only for Mexicans, but for other people.

[00:12:29.97] It is because there has been an inordinate amount of suffering. Just take a look at this image here. There was a population collapse in Mexico. So when Europe came with all of its many gifts, it also brought diseases.

[00:12:42.03] And those diseases had a catastrophic impact on indigenous people. Here you see how many indigenous people there were Mesoamerica. When the Spaniards come 100 years later, here is where it is. Here you see a painting from the Florentine Codex that shows you some of these people suffering from some of the diseases that came from Europe.

[00:13:00.78] But notice this little upturn, here. Because this little upturn is the point that I'm trying to make about convivencia. Because you see the indigenous people start to make a comeback. They start to make a comeback, in time. And in part, that's not the only comeback. Because what happens in Mexico, in terms of convivencia, is that indigenous people and Spaniards start to get together and they make new families. And not only do you have indigenous people and Spaniards coming together, living together, making new families, you also have the presence of African people who are in Mexico.

[00:13:30.51] And together, you begin to see what convivencia really can mean to people who have suffered through these type of catastrophes and begin to fight back by loving back. And so here, you have actually a Spaniard with a mulata creating a morisca. So here you have the Spaniard, here you have the African, and here's the child who is a mixture of this. And this is the history of Mexico. And I think it's very important for people to understand that Mexico, with all of its problems, it's racial and economic problems, it had a very different type of racial history.

[00:14:00.88] There was always a sense that whiteness was better. And there was always a social hierarchy. But there was also spaces for these types of mixtures to have some sort of public role, some sort of identity, some sort of creativity. And that's another meaning of this convivencia that I want to talk about. Mexico went through, of course, the independence movement, something that Professor Fash will be lecturing on tomorrow in our class.

[00:14:24.34] And here, you see again the suffering, but also a sense of this kind of combination of life and death representing how Mexicans have come to understand themselves in terms of this long history of identification, of forming the best civil society they can. And then you see the evolution. You see here some of the Ardelitas, some of the women involved in the evolution where there was great suffering, but also resistance in the Mexican Revolution. And this revolution itself is still going on, in some ways, in Mexico as people try to figure out how their convivencia can do better for the Mexican people.

[00:15:02.05] But we come back to this incredible mural and Toni Morrison. I have had a chance on two occasions to escort Toni Morrison to Mexico, both times to meet Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but also for her to meet the Mexican people. Because I wanted Toni to be able to see a different racial history there. And the first time we went to Mexico, we went to the university. I remember how the Mexicans greeted her, as an example of the Mexican sense of convivencia.

[00:15:33.71] We arrived during an intersession where students were supposed to be away for Toni Morrison to give a lecture. Well, when we arrived on campus, there were signs all over the place, green signs, I remember the signs. They were like leaves that fell from the sky, they were all green. And they had a picture of Toni Morrison. And they had four words, four Mexican words, Toni Morrison entre nosotros. Toni Morrison is among us. Toni Morrison has come to be with us.

[00:16:02.20] I wonder if African-Americans would be as receptive to one of Mexico's great writers? I hope they would be. Because the Mexicans were totally receptive to Toni Morrison. And I remember when people said to the audience at the University, which was an overflowing audience, we couldn't even get into the room, do you want Toni Morrison's reading to be translated into Spanish? And people yelled, no. Toni Morrison is writing about us. We'll understand her in any language.

[00:16:31.04] Later, I took her to Guadalajara where she spoke at the Guadalajara book fair. And she spoke in front of this mural. We walked in and I remember her speaking in front of this mural. And all of a sudden, there was kind of a dialogue between Toni Morrison, the African-American, and Jose Clemente Orozco, the great painter. When you look at this, you realize that Orozco must have thrown down a challenge to anybody speaking in front of this. Can you imagine going into giving a lecture and standing in front of this mural? How could you possibly rise to the occasion? But she did.

[00:17:05.38] And the Mexicans who were there, it was standing room only, as I said, and Morrison gave this incredible talk on the foreigner's home, the whole question of immigration, talking to the Mexicans. And as I looked around the room, I noticed something remarkable that gets back to this convivencia that I'm telling you about. And that is half of the people in the room had darker skin than Toni Morrison. Because of this convivencia that has taken place in Mexico.

[00:17:28.55] And Morrison spoke. And here you saw this notion of the Day of the Dead, where these people are rising up. And they're rising up in protest of the fire in between them, against the bosses, against some scholars who are pointing in the books to try to tell them, you who have been emaciated, you who we have starved, you who we have abused, we need to stop, stop this protest. And Toni Morrison rose to the occasion because what she was talking about to the Mexicans was, all over the world you got this globalization. And one of the reasons that globalization has become a kind of transcendent idea is because the people who have been in power are afraid of the immigrants or their language and their color and their mixtures.

[00:18:14.75] And what they do, they have projected onto the Mexicans. And they have projected onto the Puerto Ricans their own brew within themselves, which is a defensive brew of fear, of having to share the world of the future with the people who, in part, have created the basis for the future. And Toni Morrison spoke about this to the Mexicans and the Mexicans absolutely got it. And they understood. And they gave this thunderous, standing ovation to Morrison, who, in a sense, in my view, experienced the convivencia right here with the Mexican people. It was a great event. And Morrison herself loved it.

[00:18:54.97] Now we've come to the Peabody Museum. But I wanted to give you this kind of background so you can understand what I think the Day of the Dead is about or is becoming about here at Harvard. Now when I arrived at Harvard, partly through the great efforts of Bill Fash, I met some members of the staff who are here tonight, Sam Tager and others. And they showed me some elements of the Day of the Dead that they had here. And we, together, helped design this altar that you'll see upstairs, along with someone that Sam Tager found, a Mexican that he found over in Somerville who was a great artist.

[00:19:33.49] And they brought these artists over here. And they designed what you're going to see up there as permanent. They designed it themselves based on some of the ideas. And they took some of the elements from the Peabody. And they also went out into the community, because that's convivencia. They went out into the community with these blank, square pieces of wood and they met artists. And they said, would you please paint on here what you think is the Day of the Dead.

[00:19:58.18] And if you go upstairs and see the permanent altar, you'll see on the sides, all of these paintings that came from all over Boston. Because what the museum was trying to do, what Sam Tager and others were trying to do, with Bill Fash was try to do, they were trying to help this museum really come into the 21st century. The 21st century where it would become a cruce de caminos, where it could become a place, not only were objects would come and people have lectures, but all kinds of input from the Latino community would be a part of the future here.

[00:20:28.39] And that's what you see here in this design that Sam and Mizael put together. What you have here is a combination of indigenous and Catholic notions. Notice the colors over here, these colors, this dualism. This represents the pre-Columbian dualism of the male and the female, the light and the dark, the dry and the wet. It's right here encoded in this particular object.

[00:20:55.63] Going back to Octavio Paz, so you get a sense of what you're going to see upstairs, how deep it is, "our solitude has the same roots as religious feelings. It's a form of orphanhood, an obscure awareness that we have been torn from the All, and an ardent search, a flight, and a return, an effort to re-establish the bonds that unite us with the universe." Deep stuff, well, it's symbolized right here. These skulls that have been separated from the All have been repainted. And they're here with the bread of the dead. Here's life and death right here, very close together.

[00:21:25.76] And over here, we have a painting by my colleague and friend George Yepes, who you're going to hear about, a Mexican American who grew up in one of the tough neighborhoods in California. He was a person in gangs. He knew violence. He saw some of his friends die. And he used the Day of the Dead symbolism from Mexico to try to express the sadness and the danger of the Mexican American community here. You see, this is this idea of being driven to reestablish some sort of bonds that unite us.

[00:21:55.01] One scholar of the Day of the Dead calls the skeleton the totem, the Mexican totem, the skeleton. Because "somos muy fiesteros," says Octavio Paz. We like to party. We like celebrations. We do it, but we do it with this kind of knowledge that I've been talking about.

[00:22:11.30] And here, you see the skeleton. Here, you see him here, laying out, relaxing, chilling out up here with kind of a sense of humor. You see elements of the Day of the Dead there that are so important. You see the flowers. You see the skull representing the notion that the skulls themselves are flowering skulls. They can be regenerated. They plan to be regenerated. So you have this sense of this idea of the skeleton.

[00:22:33.62] And the skeleton is a part of the lives here. Here's a painting by Frida Kahlo who is someone that my wife, Maria Luisa Parra, is an expert on and is teaching right now while we're having this gathering, four inhabitants of Mexico. And here are the four inhabitants in Coyoacan. I mean, you have a pregnant, indigenous and then you have the skeleton. You know, there's life and death. You have this duality always here, with little Frida picturing herself here.

[00:23:02.81] But this duality becomes very important in the world. Now, part of this notion of the skull, of course, comes from the pre-Columbian world, comes from the Aztecs. We're finding more and more of these sacred skulls as time goes on. But you can't just think of it as a skeleton. You've got to think of it as the Cempohualxochitl, as my former student, now nahuatl teacher, calls it. These are the flowers. These are what we call marigolds. This is an Aztec flower. And this word means 20 flower.

[00:23:34.58] And my view is, it means 20 because that's the date of completion. This is the date of completion. This is the flower of the end. But it's also something that takes the skull and can revitalize the skull. Here you see a Mexican woman whose community has put a lot into gathering these flowers that make their way into the cemeteries.

[00:23:51.55] Day of the Dead takes place in the cemeteries. And here you see a woman with the flowers. And you begin to see, again, the Christian influence. You see crosses here. Because the Catholic church view that it's all souls and all saints day has certainly contributed to this. But it's another convivencia here, between the Spanish and the indigenous world that is working here, and constantly struggling, playing with one another, as this goes on.

[00:24:15.07] And here, you see El Dia de los Muertos para recordar a nuestros seres queridos. And I like this picture which Maria Louisa provided for me. I've been in these cemeteries. I've spent time in the nights with people just to see what it was like. There was a kind of murmuring that goes on. People spend hours there. They bring food. You hear music. And, of course, you see in the picture of the older woman, sadness, difficulty. But the young person is alive. And you see some sense of hope there.

[00:24:49.07] This remembering, of course, it's sad. But it's also tied up with this notion that we remember in order to become a new member. And that we're remembering in order to make sure we know that our ancestry, our family, is not only living, but it's also dead. And that convivencia is really the most human of the convivencias.

[00:25:10.42] And when I came here, one of the things that Sam Tager showed us right away was this image that they had here of a flowering skull. This is the indigenous world, the Mestizo world, the world of mixture that has become so important in the way in which, I think, Mexicans understand and create. And here you see one of the outdoor ofrenda's altars. And now you're beginning to see another element. And that's food.

[00:25:35.58] Here's the food. You put the food, the favorite food, a little tequila here, a little cerveza. You've got the Pepsi over here. You've got some of the pan. So you see the combination here. And the huaraches, the man, he did a lot of walking here. But you also notice, it's very interesting. It's kind of a pyramid. We've got this idea of a pyramid. And you see the vibrant life of this kind of statement.

[00:26:03.09] And then there's this, again, a sense of humor. My man here likes Snickers. He was into Snickers. And so here you see photographs. This is something else that's very important, the photograph.

[00:26:11.43] Now let me tell you something that has been beautiful about the Peabody Museum and the altar that's up there. Things happen we never knew were going to happen. And one of the things you'll see when you go up there, is you're going to see inside of the permanent altar. You're going to see photographs, photographs of people, some who worked here. And you're going to see photographs of pets.

[00:26:33.70] Now, no one ever came and asked anybody in any public way, can we put these photographs in here? But over the years, people who live and work in the museum have been utilizing that altar as a Day of the Dead altar to do exactly what I'm telling you, to come and recognize as a part of revitalization. So you go up there and you see them, because it shows you, again, what I'm saying. A new convivencia is taking place right up there.

[00:27:01.33] These aren't Mexican people. These are people who have come to see the Day of the Dead, the gift of the Mexicans, as something that can be shared and given to all these people. Here, you see the pan de muerto. So this is really a good job here. But you see here the pan de muerto has got the bones, but also the seeds. That's that dualism I'm telling you about.

[00:27:23.17] There's a convivencia between the death and the life, between the seeds and the bones. Because actually, in the pre-Columbian world, the bones were considered seeds. They were underground. They were germinating. And you can really get a sense of humor about this, you get the calaveritas de azucar, you get a sweet. But, of course, you can't eat them. If you tried to eat this, it would break your teeth. But here you see the kind of energy, the humor, the really dramatic, almost, overstatement about it that's part of this.

[00:27:55.36] Now, let me tell you about the little divine dog. Because it's a great story about how the Day of the Dead has incorporated absolutely a pre-Columbian myth. So in the Aztec world, it goes through a number of destructions and recreations. And at the end of the fourth age, the deities get together and they say, one of us has to go into the underworld to get the bones, so we can recreate humans. And they said, well, who's good with bones? And they said, well, the dog is good with bones. The dog god is good with bones. Xolotl, he's a dog, he's a divine dog.

[00:28:35.44] So they send him down and he dives into the underworld. And when he gets into the underworld, he meets the lord of the underworld, His name is Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld. And he's a bad character. And he doesn't like any dogs coming to get the bones.

[00:28:47.74] Because he wants to guard the bones and keep them down there. Because he wants death to remain. And he tells Xolotl, look, you can have the bones if you do one thing. You've got to do two things. You've got take this shell and you've got to make it sing. So Xolotl says, I can make that shell sing.

[00:29:06.60] And he calls the worms. And the worms chew holes in the shell. And then he calls the bees. And the bees come and they hum in those little holes, and pretty soon that shell is singing. Xolotl knows he's outsmarted him. And he says, OK, you can take the bones.

[00:29:20.63] So Xolotl goes and he gets the bones. And he puts them in. And he starts going up. He's got them in his mouth, a little bag, and he's going out. But the lord of the underworld played a trick on him, he laid a big hole and covered it up. And Xolotl goes by, these birds jump up, and he falls into the hole. And all the bones break into small pieces and he dies.

[00:29:41.81] But since he's a divine dog, he can regenerate himself. And he comes back to life. And he takes those bones and he escapes from the underworld. And he goes back into heaven and he gives these bones to the gods. And they recreate human beings. But when human beings are created, they're all different sizes. And they say, why are we all different sizes? And that's because Xolotl broke the bones in the underworld, that's why.

[00:30:04.22] Well, here's the whole story. This is the whole story I'm talking about, in terms of death and rebirth. And what happens then, and we're coming to the conclusion, is that Mexicans have decided to create what Victor Turner calls a cultural-aesthetic mirror. They hold up these mirrors to themselves and to other people and say, here's who we are. And we do this so we can see ourselves and we can see this dynamism, all this death, but this capacity for life.

[00:30:32.93] And one of the great people that did that was Jose Guadalupe Posada. And you see him here in this outdoor, look at this outdoor thing, all the effort that went into this and people going by. And Posada, even before the Day of the Dead becomes a big thing, he decides to make his art kind of political. And he makes his art political, there is up on the left, by taking every situation and turning the people into skeletons.

[00:30:56.88] Here is this caballero. He's over here proposing. But they're already skeletons. Here's a big party taking place at Harvard University or someplace and people are already skeletons. And here, of course, is the revolutionary. And he's a skeleton. And he's making skeletons. So Posada is using this. And this gets picked up.

[00:31:15.16] And one of the great expressions, as you're going to see upstairs-- in fact, maybe she's here-- is la Catrina and el Catrin. And what Posada does here, I think, is he takes a Mexican who's really going for the European style, for the French style. She's got that hat, she dresses up, she's trying to not identify necessarily with the kind of myth that I am talking about. And there she is, she looks beautiful, but she's a skeleton.

[00:31:41.56] And the same thing for my man here. My man here, he's also dapper, and so forth. Doesn't look like anything in Mexican history until he comes along, but he's a skeleton. But Mexicans take this and they love it. I see Catrina, she's right over there. Here she is. She's right over here in the room, perfect, wonderful. And she's got those flowers, too. And so this becomes part of this public art. It's a wonderful presence. She's got style, I like her.

[00:32:09.02] And I love this piece, too. Because here you see a Swiss chalet. And here's Mexicans with their humor. And here's a couple getting married. But up here it says, you better be sure you got a Swiss watch so you will never be late for your final appointment, which is death.

[00:32:29.37] So finally, the last two things I want to talk about, I want to go back to Octavio Paz. It says, "he wants to be a son again, to return to the center of that life from which he separated one day." And here you see an image of the painting. And here is the actual painting over here. I hope our camera man can get it. The light is not perfect for it. But you can see it here.

[00:32:49.84] So recently in Mexico, Professor Fash and other members of the Harvard faculty went down to Mexico to inaugurate, for the first time in the 400 years of Harvard University, a lecture series in the name of a Mexican, Eduardo Matos Moctezuma. Think about that, first time in 400 years to have a lecture series. Some years ago, a colleague, Senor Madero, he did fund a chair here. And he needs to be recognized and thanked.

[00:33:22.40] But this was the first time a lecture series has been set up. We went down. And as part of this convivencia, this history, this long history that we wanted to honor and bring to Harvard in a more intense way, we asked Georgie Yepes, whose known as the Fuego de Los Angeles, to do a painting that would honor this moment. And here was the painting that he did.

[00:33:42.45] I told him about it. He went ahead and designed it. In the background, you have the Mexican flag, tricolor. And in the Mexican flag, you see this sort of indigenous sense of life and death struggling. Here is the eagle and the serpent struggling there. That's that balance that you see that he put in there.

[00:33:58.92] And then, below you have the Aztec city, the Aztec city. Here you see the city itself upon which Mexico stands today. And here you see Eduardo Matos. And Eduardo Matos is discovering and cleaning off the great Coyolxauhqui stone. And he represents the foundation of this great excavation that takes place in Mexico City as a good friend of the Consul Rabasa.

[00:34:22.70] And growing out of it is the Caballero Aguila, or this is the sun god. This is the sun god as an eagle warrior. And he's rising above it all. He is emerging. This is life, the sun emerging again into history. This is the idea, under the guidance of Eduardo Matos Moctezuma.

[00:34:40.17] And so what Yepes has done is create another kind of convivencia. This is a Chicano artist. This is a Mexican American artist. And he's reached back in this way to create this kind of symbol that we're going to have for the next five years. Everybody who does the Lectureship, every person who does the Lectureship over the five years is going to get a reduced copy of this image, hand painted by George Yepes. Because we wanted to give a medal, that's good. But to give something like this, that will live and represent the kind of energy and creativity and gift that I've been talking about.

[00:35:16.33] Now I have one final thing to say that perhaps is the most wonderful example of this convivencia and this gift. I don't know who it was in the museum staff that decided about 10 years ago that when people came to the ofrenda, that they would leave a little basket with little pieces of paper and pencil. And they would say to people, if you'd like to leave a message for someone who's deceased, please do so, no pressure.

[00:35:53.51] Over the years, we've got thousands and thousands of these messages. Here, I just bought some of them for you, precious messages that people are giving. Let me read you a few. Here's a cool one. Sometimes to animals. Boo dog, you were my first dog and I will never forget you. I hope you're having fun terrorizing all the cats up there.

[00:36:21.09] Another one, Tupac and Biggie Smalls, RIP Plus, papa, pensamos mucho en usted, su hijo que lo amo mucho. Then, dear Johnny Cash, thanks for speaking out against injustice and helping my grandfather and I bond. Topped by, dear Chris Farley, thanks for being the greatest comedian of all time, you made everyone laugh.

[00:36:53.80] When you read these messages, you see the magic of the Day of the Dead at Harvard. You see the magic here. Because what these messages show me is that they are written in German. They're written in Italian. They're written in English and Spanish and Russian. They're written in Greek. They're written in Arabic. All kinds of messages are here, over the last years, from children, from grandparents, from people who've lost someone.

[00:37:27.38] And what this came to teach me was that for the time that the Day of the Dead is here, people come. And just for a moment, they may be atheists, they may be Catholics, they may be Muslims, they may be Jews, they may be Buddhist, the idea comes that they can communicate with an ancestor, with someone who is dead. And they take the time to leave the message. And when they leave the message, for me, on those days all of those ancestors from all over the world are just here together, just for a moment, just for that night, just for that convivencia.

[00:38:03.95] And for me, that is one of the great gifts that Mexicans have created. Because, like the Virgin of Guadalupe, they're embracing all the types of people who come here. And so I think there are a lot of people to thank for this. This is the gift from Mexico. This is really a convivencia that we are living today. So thank you, Sam. Thank you, Bill. Thank all of you.