Thursday, October 04, 2012

Celebrating the Dead, Wiki Style!


In Mexico, the dead are celebrated once a year during an event called “Día de Muertos”or Day of the Dead. It is a syncretism of indigenous beliefs with Catholicism. While it is observed in almost all of Mexico (and now parts of the United States), how it is celebrated varies from one place to the next. For example, local observance can last from one to three days. The “day” is 2 November, but those who observe three days begin on 31 October. Preparations for the event begin well before this and usually include the creation of an altar called an “ofrenda” (offering) which includes traditional Mexican foods, fruits and other produce in season and if at the home, photos of the deceased being honored along with offerings of things in life that they enjoyed. At my home, my mother’s photo is accompanied by Milky Way candy, Pepsi, a cup of tea and even a pack of cigarettes. In addition to ofrendas, it is traditional to clean and decorate family graves on this day and even spend a day or night there. During the month of October, many schools and cultural institutions sponsor events as well.

The library at my school, ITESM-Campus Ciudad de México in Mexico City, wanted to participate in some way with Wiki Loves Libraries which occurs in October and November. We decided one of the best ways we could introduce working with Wikipedia to students was to sponsor a photo contest, similar to Wiki LovesMonuments, themed for this holiday. While there are a number of photographsalready in Wikimedia Commons, they do not really begin to tell the story of this very rich tradition. The contest has three categories with prizes: 1) the best photo (which I call the “Wow” category) 2) the most original photograph (of something no one else thought to take a picture of) and 3) the student that uploads the most photographs of different things to Commons between the contest period which is 5 October to 5 November 2012. The three categories are there to encourage different kinds of photography, not only good pictures with good cameras and techniques, but photos of local traditions, preparations and more as well as increasing the breadth of photographic coverage. It not only allows students who don’t have access to expensive cameras and training a chance to win, it also aims to capture images and themes which are not already in Commons.

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