Observations In South America & Exploring Latin American Literature

There is nothing which quite so painfully emphasizes the difference between being alive and being dead than a bustling shopping mall sitting directly across the street from a giant cemetery. But perhaps the contrast only exists in the mind of a white Western man after coming up in a culture steeped in nearly three centuries of naturalist Enlightenment thought. Because for the residents in Buenos Aires (and, frankly, the rest of South and Central America) the barrier between this world and a world of the shadows has never been a concrete wall, but more like a curtain which the winds of mystery occasionally blow open so that both sides may interact. Altars are built for the dead, prayers are said to them, and festivals are held in their honor and with their attendance in mind. While fellow non-believers may see such activities as pointless, I beg to differ. These cultural rituals and perceptions provide amazing catharsis, and are uniquely powerful ways of keeping passed loved ones alive... if only in our hearts.

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