This blog began 29 days ago, providing background information (or dramaturgy, to use the fancy academic term) on Beau Jest Moving Theatre's production of Tennessee Williams' rarely performed "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real," which opens tomorrow at Charlestown Working Theater. Today's next-to-last entry looks at two very important characters in the play.
The Characters in "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real"
The Street Sweepers
As in many Latin American countries, Mexico commemorates the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) or All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. The legacy of past civilizations is graphically manifested on this occasion through people’s beliefs that death is a transition from one life to another where communication exists between the living and the dead. Differing from the Roman Catholic ritual to commemorate All Souls’ Day, the custom established by pre-colonial Mexican civilizations became a ceremony where indigenous beliefs blended with Catholic beliefs. Therefore, the Day of the Dead in Mexico is not a mournful commemoration but a happy and colorful celebration where death takes a lively, friendly expression. Indigenous people believed that souls did not die, that they continued living in Mictlan, a special place to rest. In this place, the spirits rest until the day they could return to their homes to visit their relatives.
Before the Spaniards arrived, they celebrated the return of the souls between the months of July and August. Once arrived, the Spaniards changed the festivities to November 2nd to coincide with All Souls’ Day of the Catholic Church.
Presently, two celebrations honoring the memory of loved ones who have died take place: On November 1st, the souls of the children are honored with special designs in the altars, using the color white on flowers and candles. On November 2nd, the souls of the adults are remembered with a variety of rituals, according to the different states of the Mexican republic. This is an ancestral tradition that blended with Catholicism to create a special time and space to remember and honor the loved ones by offering them an ofrenda, the fragrance of the flowers, the light of the candles, the aroma of special foods and the solemnity of prayers.
It is also a time to joke and make fun of death through "calaveras", poetry allusive to a particular person, generally politicians; sugar, chocolate and amaranth skulls which are given to one another with their friend’s name so "they can eat their own death" and special crafts allusive to different aspects of the living, with skeletons representing daily activities.
It is this last aspect that Tennessee Williams used for his two Street Sweepers, everyday workers who here represent Death, terrifying to the European and North American vistors to the Camino Real.
Adapted from http://www.dayofthedead.com/