Ambassador from Korea visits San Miguel
By Jade Arroyo
Framed by the celebration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and Korea and by La Calaca Festival, a demonstration of solidarity and brotherhood between the two countries took place. The installation and exhibition of a traditional offering to ancestors, together with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead highlighted the similarities between both traditions. The ambassador from Korea, Seong Hoa Hong, and his wife, Hyun Seok Kwon, attended the opening of this event, along with Mayor Mauricio Trejo with his wife, Karla, and several local leaders from the art, culture and business communities.
In a speech, Trejo remarked, “We have the obligation of going out into the world to see other cultures and above all to appreciate our own, to understand what we are, why we are what we are, and where we’re going. If 50 years ago relations were not totally open, today that has changed due to friendship.” The ambassador explained to the attendees the different elements of the Korean altar and their meaning, such as the placing of the food, the orientation of the altar and the candles and incense.
For example, alcohol and the favorite food of the deceased are offered to the spirits and then are eaten by the family, as is the Mexican custom. Traditionally, pears are placed on the Korean altar to symbolize the purity and clarity of the Korean culture.
“We found cultural similarities between the two peoples. Here in Mexico, you have the Day of the Dead; in Korea, we also express our respect for our ancestors. It’s a way of honoring them,” said the ambassador.
“I felt that San Miguel de Allende has earned its status as a World Heritage site, and I saw great potential for tourism in this city. I think a large number of Korean citizens would visit here. Last year, 40,000 Koreans visited Mexico; the first half of this year, that number increased by 14 percent. San Miguel can attract tourists to create a stronger relationship,” he said. When he was asked which was his favorite element on the Mexican altar, he said it was fruits and vegetables, because that is the base of the Korean diet. This unusual altar was displayed to the public during the La Calaca Festival from November 1 through 4 at Plaza Vista Hermosa, on calle Cuna de Allende.