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The Spirit of the People
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© Colette Urbajtel/Archivo Manuel Álvarez Bravo, SC

Manuel Alvarez Bravo
Mexican, 1927
Gelatin silver print
7 3/16 x 9 5/8 in.
92.XM.23.1

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Manuel Alvarez Bravo's photograph of a small mound of flowers and candles depicts one of many ways in which the dead are commemorated in Mexico. According to Mexican culture, life and death are recurring stages of a ceaseless cosmic process. Death is thus incorporated into everyday life. On Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, people visit the cemetery where their relatives are buried; in addition to decorating gravesites with flowers and candles, they sit on picnic blankets next to the tombs and eat their loved ones' favorite foods. As if to underscore the transitory quality of earthbound things, Alvarez Bravo made this photograph when two of the lit candles were nearly extinguished.