On June 23, 2020, a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck the coast of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, not far from the coastal town of Zippolite where I accidentally lived when the pandemic began in March. As soon as I sat down to work, the room began to tremble violently, as if it was about to spontaneously ignite. I rushed out of the house and found sparks from wires everywhere in a suddenly blackened world. Terrible at stake.
Adding to the feeling of the end of the world is that vehicles flying around, passengers hanging on the windows, yelling at onlookers to run to the mountain, otherwise they will be killed by the so-called tsunami. I told myself that this was undoubtedly a suitable ending for my stay in Zipolite-the name of this place is said to mean “Death Beach” or “Death Beach” in Zapotec.
There are many theories about the origin of this name. The most obvious is that this is a deadly sea. Over the years, waves and rapids have caused the death of countless swimmers. Some observers also argued that the indigenous people of the area regarded Zipolite (located in the southernmost part of Oaxaca) as some sort of underworld.
After notification of the imminent martyrdom of the tsunami, I was rescued by a man I had never met in a struggling pose at the door. Jose Luiz, who was in his forties but looked much older, motioned to me to jump into his car and drove me to the land where his extended family lived. For the next few hours, I sat blankly on his mother’s terrace, while my family laughed at each aftershock and recalled the last major earthquake in 2017 when there was a tsunami warning, Qi The residents of Polit took refuge in the cemetery. The hill overlooks the town.
This time, the coast was finally declared clear, and I dragged myself home-and that night, after my family concluded that I might not respond well to the magnitude 5.9 aftershock and dispatched Jose, I finally returned. On this land. Louis came to pick me up again.
Six months later, Jose Luiz fell into a fatal diabetic coma and was buried in the hilltop cemetery. The funeral is accompanied by traditional ranch music provided by a singer and guitarist-in a country where funerals are often festive, there are drinking, dancing and fireworks displays.
However, in different parts of Mexico, the coronavirus pandemic has hindered things, as in a May 2020 article in the Spanish newspaper El País entitled “La muerte ya no es una fiesta”-or “Death is not a party” The details of the article are gone.” The closure of cemeteries and social distancing measures mean that, for example, in Mexico City, it is no longer possible to hold a ten-member Mariachi serenade.
According to Federico Navarrete, a historian at the National Autonomous University of Mexico cited in the article, the inability to perform the established funeral ceremony is a “problem” for many Mexican communities, not just from the “supernatural” From the perspective of “community” and from the perspective of “community”, funerals are also places for “group activities” and “confirm social connections”.
Of course, this does not mean that death is always a joyous moment in Mexico. In addition to being ravaged by the pandemic, this country is in the throes of a killing epidemic, and the drug war launched in 2006 supported by the United States has caused more than 300,000 deaths and approximately 80,000 missing.
But as a Mexican friend said to me recently: since everyone has to die, for those of us who are still alive, celebrating with it will ultimately be healthier. For people like me who grew up in the United States—death there is never a party, and my brother and I used to hold our breath while driving through a cemetery—this attitude is like breathing fresh air.
To be sure, under the brand of cruel capitalism in the United States, there are not many opportunities for “community” in death, and even fewer opportunities in life. Instead, in order to maintain the tyranny of the elite and the institutionalized social and economic inequality system, proactive power pits humans against each other and reduces existence itself to the question of personal success or failure. To say the least, this is a deadly arrangement-look at a similar report from the Washington, DC-based Policy Research Institute: “Inequality is killing us.”
In December 2021, a year after the death of José Luis, I hiked to the Zipolite Cemetery, with its huge painted skull smiling at the entrance. The graves are dotted with colorful remains from last month’s Day of the Dead celebrations, one of Mexico’s most iconic celebrations. Pulp decorations, flowers and alcoholic beverage products abound.
On the concrete tomb of José Luis, there is a rooster, a candle, and a framed photo of him holding Corona beer. Sitting on the edge of the tomb with my beer, I slowly replayed what happened on June 23 in my mind, laughing at the spectacle I made at the door, and thanking José Luis for enduring it Up me. A couple rode a motorcycle to clean a nearby grave and place more flowers, and kept chatting with the dead.
For communities where the dead are effectively still part of life, there is something both uplifting and uplifting. When I returned from the cemetery to the bottom of the mountain, I felt alive on the beach of death.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.