02 November 2013
The tour of a cemetery below is in the town of Erongarícuaro, where Breton lived, known for a lively Dia de los Muertos owing to the traditions of the local Purépecha, whose unconquered pre-Columbian culture was believed to be the most advanced. Lake Patzcuaro, which it fronts on, contains the most famous and heavily touristed celebrations on the Isla Janitzio, around which at night fishermen light candles in their boats to welcome the souls of the dead.
John Huston's evocation of the Day of the Dead establishing the time and place of his adaptation of Under the Volcano begins with the Consul trying to superstitiously win over a pariah dog, placating them repeatedly in the novel with the determination of Arion singing to his lyre in Sicily "come with me in the realm of shades. Though Cerberus may growl, we know the power of song can tame his rage." The custom of believing that dogs must be treated with respect because they will lead your soul to the valley of death remains widespread in Mexico, illustrated in parable form in Reygadas' Post Tenebrus Lux, and Lowry would have no doubt heard it, mixing it with "the temptation, the cowardly, the future-corruptive serpent" hanging from Cerberus' neck before Hades when he documents a third of the way through dogs leading the protagonists across a river "trample on it, you stupid fool. Be Mexico. Have you not passed through that river? In the name of God be dead." Dolphins escort Arion through the seas after his tangle with Cerberus. The Mexican belief in dogs ferrying comes from pre-Columbian narratives such as the Nahuatl tradition that life is a dream and the soul is escorted by dogs on a four year journey across the river 'beyond' to Mictlan, the realm of the dead. Lowry was also likely influenced by the belief, based on Aztec traditions, that the Dia is penance by humans for the mishaps of the gods that lead to life's fatal flaws and mortality.