“They were out of white.” Louise had just returned from the makeup store bearing brushes, remover, and a large tube of silver makeup. “They said silver will look just as good.” Silver? Who’s ever heard of a silver skull? I was destined to look like a piece of jewelry, not the sugar skull I anticipated.
Tradition here has it that at midnight October 31, the gates of heaven are opened and souls of deceased children (“angelitos”) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. To please the angelitos, models of skulls are molded from sugar and left on the altars. It’s also common to decorate your face with white and black makeup to resemble a sugar skull (not to resemble a zombie, as is often believed). Much of Dia de Muertos is about the angelitos.
And so it was that Louise and I spent two hours painting each other’s faces, quite inexpertly, but having gobs of fun in the process. We emerged bearing resemblances to sugar skulls, only in silver, and sloppy silver at that.
So prepared, we headed off into town. Boarded a blue bus, made the children in the seats next to us laugh, and got off at the Malecon (boardwalk) to join the parade of fellow sugar skulls.
I’m something of a shy guy, and I felt conspicuous. The humidity here is stifling and Louise’s makeup was sliding down her face like molten metal. We couldn’t find the parade; there were too few sugar skulls; and I couldn’t drink beer without damaging my “teeth.” We found another blue bus and came home. (It was probably the beer thing that did me in: it’s hot in Puerto Vallarta, and PV without beer is punishment suitable only for hooligans and scoundrels.)
Louise — forever the optimist — is quick to point out that we brought smiles to the faces of scores of children. Buses passing us on the street honked their greetings. People waved, saying “¡Buenos noches amigos!” Me? I just felt like a leper. Buzzkill.
We returned to the sanctity of our apartment. Scrubbed our faces. Poured beers. Toasted Dia de Muertos and went to bed. Next year I’ll take a happy pill. Buy white makeup before they run out.
And hire a face painter.
(Photo credit, top image: Tammy Wetzel, http://www.fineartamerica.com)