The Marigold Feast

The Marigold Feast

For this Oaxacan merchant, marigolds mean more than ever this Día de Muertos season.

Every day at sunset, María Jesús Vásquez sits on a wooden bench at the side of the highway, waiting for her son, Arturo, 8 years old, to return from a nearby school bus stop. She’s never been religious herself, but on this day, Arturo’s mother is.

“The marigolds symbolize that love continues to exist,” she says. “And they are the ones who continue to give us life, the ones who give us hope and support.”

On the first day of the feast, a family of four sets up a small altar in front of the shop of María Jesús. A picture of the Virgin sits on the altar, and flowers hang from the ceiling. The flowers are placed in a black vase, on which sits a jar full of corn husks. On the shelf above the vase is a basket full of dried fruit and a bowl full of beans, which have begun to sprout.

“The marigolds are a symbol of life,” says Nilda Vásquez, Arturo’s mother. “They represent new life, a new beginning. When we see the marigolds, it’s a reminder that we have to be thankful for life.”

On the second day of the feast, the shop of Nilda’s father, Juan Antonio Vásquez, is closed. One day earlier, he was shot dead by a fellow shopkeeper.

“I’m very sad about this,” Nilda says. “But I do agree. Life is only what life is, a constant change. Nothing lasts, nothing is eternal.”

The family’s business has been doing well for a long time. They work mostly with hand-embroidered clothing, and they have a few accessories, such as handbags, belts, necklaces, and bracelets. But this year is the first time they have opened their own store, which they hope will be more successful than their

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