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The Living and the Dead Extend the World
Eduardo Matos and Alfredo Lopez Austin. Photo: Hector Montaño/INAH.
MEXICO CITY.- Ethnographic studies conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) researchers, have achieved interpreting and understanding different rituals regarding death, where departed, symbolically, jointly with the living, are in charge of keeping the world’s continuity.

The results of those investigations have been gathered in the book “Die to Live in Mesoamerica”, presented in June 18th 2009 at the National Museum of Anthropology (MNA) with the interventions of INAH emeritus professor Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) historian Alfredo Lopez Austin.

Both researchers pointed out that beyond similarities and differences among diverse ethnic groups in Mexico, in their beliefs system the dead are still present, with all economic and symbolic implications.

When referring to ethno historic perspectives parting from new approaches that allow knowing how dead intervenes in some events, signalized in by Morir para Vivir en Mesoamerica, the emeritus researcher remarked that in indigenous groups’ beliefs, the dead acquire a permanence sense.

“The departed is still present” and adopts certain features through social beliefs that reflect the mundane sphere, as well as death expressions, being artistic, cultural, social or economic, which are always expressions of life.

Alfredo Lopez Austin, academic at the Institute of Anthropologic Investigations (IIA UNAM) mentioned that rituals of death are different when referring to souls and bodies; the first transit to other spaces, while the bodies move away from the world of the living.

“Both the living and the dead work in a common cause: to extend the world, since both groups do symbolic labor to achieve it. The deceased has disappeared as a human, but in its divine condition, enrolls in other service, declared the history doctor.

Lopez Austin said that the ritual concept of the death has an attribute of coexistence between livings and dead; it is not only about a group of beliefs but the maintenance of a traditional thought system in which the essence of humanhood is work. Those who die part to keep working in different functions but their essence is still the same.

The recent publication “Die to Live in Mesoamerica” is result of field investigation, debates, and research corpus series about the study of death, that allow to step into the mysterious world of the departed with 12 different ethnographic perspectives.

The book was edited by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), coordinated by Lourdes Baez and Catalina Rodriguez, researchers from the MNA Ethnography Sub Direction, and includes studies conducted by Ruso Maldonado, Arturo Gomez, Alejandro Lopez, Marcela Hernandez, Maria Eugenia Sanchez Santana, among others.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | Eduardo Matos Moctezuma | National Autonomous University of Mexico | National Museum of Anthropology |

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