Explorer’s Log : Day of the Dead in Mexico City

In Mexico, November 1 is for honouring of dead children and infants, and November 2 is for honouring deceased adults. Therefore, November 1 is generally referred to as Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) but also as Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels); while November 2 is referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead). Together, they are called Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) and celebrations begins on 31st October. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead”, corresponding to the modern La Calavera Catrina.

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You have planned to travel Mexico for the Day of the Dead celebrations, and you want to make sure you are on time for the parade, so you go online and google about it. You find nothing. How come? That’s because there was no such Parade of the Dead/Possession, it’s just made up by the James Bond’s latest movie Spectre. However, it is rumoured that the Mexican government will plan one for those who are visiting the Mexico City due to the effect of the spy movie.

(Video Credits: Nigel Le Grange : Spectre – Opening Scene Edited)

So other than the parade, what should you expect to experience in the Día de Muertos celebrations? During the period of the festival, people with Mexican ancestry living in Mexico and all over the world have the tradition of going to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed. They are also building ofrendas (private altars) containing the favourite food and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves. People honour the deceased by decorating sugar skulls and cempasúchil (marigolds) everywhere.  These activities are believed to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Hence, even without the parade, the whole Mexico City will be fully decorated and the celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. Visitors from overseas can surely enjoy the sight.

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One of the best place to visit for enjoying the festivities is the San Andres Mixquic, a community located in the southeast of the Distrito Federal (Mexico City) in the borough of Tláhuac. At the Mixquic, visitors can experience the delight and atmosphere of the Day of the Dead; the sights, sounds and smells of the rituals, cultural events and stands selling food, crafts and other items. Visitors need not to worry about where to get food and souvenirs, but it may get expensive as the price is developing with the booming of tourism. A great number of stone skulls are used to adorn the facades of homes in this area, making it perfect for taking snapshots for commemorating the visit and the event.

Man delivering special bread, pan de muertos, in crowded market during annual Day of the Dead celebration, Ocotlan, Mexico

Another great place to visit for the festivities is the Coyoacán. It’s different from other parts of the Mexico City for it had been independent from the city for a long time. People dresses up and they also have wonderful food and crafts markets. Art works, flowers and music are all over the places and celebrations keep on going. They will also have parades, but it’s not like the one showed in the James Bond movie.

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Spain also have their celebrations for the Day of the Dead. Have you been there to experience the festivities? Tell us in the comments!

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