Mexico´s Day of the Dead

Today, 2 November, sees the celebration of the Day of the Dead festival. Mexico is best known for this festival, though it also is celebrated elsewhere in Latin America. It´s an interesting blend of traditional indigenous beliefs, with a few catholic influences thrown in. Where´s best to celebrate the Day of the Dead?

The day of the Dead, or “Dia de los Muertos” in Spanish is a celebration of the lives of the deceased. It seems to many a rather morbid affair, but is in fact a joyous celebration of one´s ancestors. Mexico´s Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced back to indigenous cultural traditions of the Maya, Aztec, Olmec, Mixtec, P’urhépecha, Zapotec and Totonac cultures.

Day of the Dead People, Mexico
Day of the Dead People.

Lake Patzcuaro´s island of Janitzio in Mexico is one of the best places to witness the Day of the Dead festival. Patzcuaro is a small highland town about 5 hours from Mexico City and has one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Mexico. During the Day of the Dead festivities, Patzcuaro´s local fishermen light torches across the lake, and the local cemetrys bell rings all night, beckoning the souls to return to the cemetry.

Day of the Dead models
Day of the Dead Models

Mixquic is a small rural village near Mexico City that retains strong indigenous cultural influences. in Mixquic there are processions, candle light vigils and stall set up through the village to comemorate the Day of the Dead. Oaxaca sees night time carnival-esque processions and sand tapestry compeitions set up throught the colonial town. Merida also sees similar street festivities. In the Chiapas region, just 15 km from Tuxtla Gutierrez, the small colonial town of Chiapa de Corzo is also well known for it´s Day of the Dead celebrations.

Mexico is most famous for the celebrations - the best place to be is on Lake Patzcuaro. It is generally full of Mexican tourists during the celebrations, and maintains a very authentic feel. However, the Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Mexico, so wherever you are is likely to be intruiging. Generally speaking, in rural areas it is a more solemn affair, while in urban areas it is more of a party / celebration. In addition, the festival is also celebrated in Guatemala, which sees similar processions and vigils, and Brazil, where it is a national holiday.

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