Dia de las Flores: Death and the Devil visit the Colonial House, Guanajuato, Mexico

Holy Week is a very big holiday in central Mexico and the festivities begin the week before Easter, with El Dia de las Flores (Day of the Flowers) and the Viernes de la Virgen de los Dolores (Friday of the Virgin of Sorrows). The Dia de las Flores (Thursday of the week before Palm Sunday) involves seemingly the entire city; a vast number of flower stands (fresh, paper, and fabric), as well as stands selling toys, Easter eggs, small animals, stuffed creatures and live ones (tiny turtles and hermit crabs), devil and demon masks, cow and steer carrying cases, and the like, are set up everywhere downtown. The whole city comes out to see and be seen and to purchase flowers and other accoutrements for their own Virgen de los Dolores altars. Using these supplies, altars to the Virgin (who is also the patron of miners, most important in this city of silver mines) are set up in public places (hotels, restaurants, churches, stores) and in private homes beginning on the Thursday before Palm Sunday.

For the Dia de las Flores, Ty and I decorated the front archways of our colonial house; using flowers, often symbolising the brevity and beauty of life, locally-made masks of Death (a tiny tin skull wearing a black sombrero), and the Devil (a papier mache horned demon mask), we reimagined the encounter of Death, the Devil, and the Maiden imagined so starkly in images such as those below by Hans Baldung Grien, and the great etching of The Knight, Death, and the Devil by Albrecht Durer.

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1510

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1518

“In this painting [above] a voluptuous young maiden turns to receive the kiss of her lover, only to discover, to her horror, Death. The skeletal figure gently holds her head, a gesture that belies the finality of his impending bite. His patches of wispy hair and rotting skin mock her flowing tresses and supple flesh. The dark setting, unnoticed at first, is a cemetery as she stands on a gravestone, perhaps her own. This Vanitas picture (an image that alludes to the transience of life) typifies Baldung’s predilection for erotically charged twists to more conventional themes, such as the Dance of Death. ” (Web Gallery of Art)

In Knight, Death, and the Devil (1513) Durer shows his Knight steadfastly ignoring both Death, who shakes an hourglass in the Knight’s face, and the pig-nosed devil behind, grinning stupidly.

For more information on the Memento Mori, and other installations on this theme that I had done, click here and here.

See all the photos of the Guanajuato piece here.