Haiti celebrates Day of Dead with voodoo rituals as political crisis lingers
By Maria Montecelos
Port-au-Prince, Nov 1 (EFE).- Haitians Monday celebrated their special version of Day of the Dead in the backdrop of the worst bouts of violence in recent years sparked by armed gangs in the Caribbean nation.
Criminal groups, mainly G9 Fanmi and Alye, have spread terror for months, except for two brief truces after the assassination of President Jovenel Moise on July 7 and the earthquake that struck the south on Aug.14.
Gangsters have unleashed a reign of terror by indiscriminately stealing, raping, murdering, and kidnapping, and blocking fuel supplies for weeks that have led to life-choking shortages.
“They are all evils and divine will,” a voodoo priest said, speaking in Haitian Creole.
“Everything that is happening comes from God. Kidnapping, disorder, hatred,” he said at a Port-au-Prince cemetery filled with a large crowd of talcum power smeared revelers.
The Haitians celebrated the first of the two days of “guede,” their version of the “festival of the dead.” The Caribbean nation marks the festival on Nov.1 and 2.
The revelers dressed as voodoo spirits of death were all over the alleyways of the cemetery in the capital.
Voodoo is a religion that has little to do with the cliché of pin dolls of Hollywood.
Tamie Dulia Dufreine, a devotee, said voodoo was more than a religion for Haitians.
“Voodoo encompasses almost everything. It covers medicine. It is the guide to spirituality. It is social, cultural and traditional,” she said.
People smear color on graveyards, play music, offer prayers and offerings, get into trances to celebrate “guédé” as the aroma of coffee fills the air mixed with the stench of alcohol.
“It is within the cemetery where the high magic is found,” said the expert.
“The feast of guédé represents the liberation from slavery.”
In the cemetery, the air is intoxicating, as the vapors from the alcohol spilled to honor the dead emanate amid suffocating heat and the effluvia mixing with marijuana smoke.
Devotees offer food, coffee, money, flowers, and candles.
The offerings are deposited near tombs or in front of colorful figures. Rum, white or old, is poured on graves, skulls, and bones.
A splash of rum is for the dead. A gulp is for the living even as the uses of the Caribbean liquor in voodoo are varied.
The intercessors between the spirits and the living have their faces painted white. They also use the liquor in rituals.
On many occasions, they let it marinate with hot chili peppers.