Blog Archives

Day of the Dead in Photos, 2017

It’s the middle of the first week of November, which means that the Day of the Dead has come and gone. The holiday is one of the most interesting and colorful in Mexico, taking place in big processions on the street, in people’s homes, and in cemeteries across the country. Please read a more detailed description here.

Not having too much time to write, I uploaded a bunch of photos to this blog’s Facebook page. Please click here to take a look.

Or, look to the right to find the little Facebook box. Besides the photos for Day of the Dead, I have other collections from my travels in Mexico. Click “like,” and when I post links to articles about Mexico or more photos, they will appear in your feed.

And while you’re looking to the right of this page, check out the blog stats. As I write this, I’m a couple thousand short of one million hits. One million hits! I remember when I passed ten thousand a few years ago, and how I couldn’t believe it was that many.

So, thank you very much for visiting my blog. I’ll be writing longer articles soon, but for now please enjoy a few of my photos from the Day of the Dead:

SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCClick here to see more photos.

The Day of the Dead in Mexico: What’s it all about?

In Mexico, a country full of color, tradition, and flavor, the Day of the Dead stands out as especially colorful, traditional, and flavorful. Rooted in Pre-Hispanic practice and caught up in the trick-or-treat influence of Halloween, the holiday is a chance to honor deceased relatives with an altar in the home, dress up as an elegant skeleton, and sample the best of Mexico’s artesanal candy.

The Day of the Dead takes place on November 2, but it’s celebrated several days or even weeks before, especially when it happens midweek, making a long weekend. While it’s one of the most public holidays in Mexico, in many ways it’s also the most personal. Besides costumes and outdoor events (more on those below), perhaps the most interesting part of the holiday is that people visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried.

They clean it up, decorate it with flowers, and even may spend the night there, eating, drinking, playing music, and remembering their loved ones.

cemetary-8-copy

“We don’t cry. It’s a celebration,” says Pedro, a guitarist and music teacher. His family decorates their relatives’ graves with candles, photographs, and orange flowers. They sing songs, tell stories, and tell their dead relatives about everything new in their lives.

The Ofrenda (Altar)

Another more personal manifestation of the Day of the Dead is the altar that families set up in their homes. Called an ofrenda, in it they place photographs of deceased relatives and some of their favorite foods, including cigarettes and alcohol if the person liked them. It’s as if the relative will come back for a visit, and the family wants them to feel welcome again.

Not only families do this, but places all over Mexico. Here’s an ofrenda from the university where I work:

SONY DSC

Another:

SONY DSC

Day of the Dead Parade

Spectre, the James Bond movie from 2015, presents a highly stylized view of the Day of the Dead. In the first scenes of the movie, there’s a big parade with lots of noise and action, with people running around in colorful dresses and skull makeup. Apparently the Mexican government spent a huge amount of money to get the scene included in the movie, and the skeleton character even made it onto the cover:

In an example of life following art (or art following art?), there are now Day of the Dead parades, called Paseo de las Animas, going down the same city streets in Mexico City, usually the weekend before the holiday. Along with floats of skulls and big colorful monsters called alebrijes, they include thousands of actors in skeleton costumes and makeup. (The skeleton, called catrina for women and catrin for men, is the iconic figure wearing a flowing gown or old-style suit.)

Small towns have these solemn processions as well:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Feria del Alfeñique in Toluca

The Mexico City parade might be relatively new, but displays, events, and markets selling Day of the Dead specialities have been happening for years all over the country in the days leading up to the holiday.

The Feria del Alfeñique in Toluca, the central Mexican city where I live, is a great place to sample all the flavors and soak up the atmosphere. (Alfeñique is a type of sugar candy.)

In the Portales, an outdoor mall of arches in the center of town, hundreds of vendors sell all kinds of candies, decorations, and skeleton figures for the Day of the Dead, either to try right there or to put in your family altar.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

No altar would be complete without calaveritas, the colorful candy skulls. They represent the dead relative, whose name you can have drawn on the forehead in sugar.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

You can get candied everything, including all kinds of vegetables and fruit, like limes, pumpkin, and nopales (cactus leaves). Here are some tempting bananas:

SONY DSC

I especially enjoy the oficios, little skeletons doing their various jobs.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

If you want to experience the Day of the Dead but without a late night in a cemetery or the enormous crowds of a parade, come to Toluca for the Feria del Alfeñique. It’s an easy bus ride from the Observatorio metro stop/bus station in the west of Mexico City. Once you get to the Toluca bus station, take a “safe taxi” (taxi seguro) to centro, downtown.

A big catrin and catrina in downtown Toluca:

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Because the Day of the Dead comes right after Halloween, and because of similar themes, the two holidays have become somewhat mixed up in Mexico. Parents dress their children in scary costumes to bring them downtown to trick-or-treat, visiting businesses and asking passersby for candy, instead of walking around their neighborhood. This doesn’t only happen on October 31, but a few days before and after.

It’s also common for people in elaborate costumes to accept money to pose with you for photographs.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Look out for this guy:

SONY DSC

Please click here to see more photos, and see you next year.

SONY DSC

Photos of Mexico Part 1

Hello friend, subscriber, visitor – I am flattered and honored and pleased that you visit my blog, and I want to thank you from the deepest recess of my gratitude gland, buried within the reptile brain, a.k.a. cerebellum.

In my quest to Be A Writer, I am happy to report that I’ve been selling my stories. So they will not appear on this blog until I link to them once they are published.

In the meantime, allow me to share some of my favorite photos of Mexico.

Here’s a fun game – if you recognize something in one of the photos, please tell us in the comments.

san cris church 1

10 chichen itza ball court

7 valladolid market yucca

cumbre tajin 5

cumbre tajin 8

20 pastor

13 valladolid market

san cris market 6

2 cheese

12 medicine 2

5 cacao

Beans! Of all colors!

villa de carbon 2

vl 2

tower

IMG_7614 copy

puebla centro

pointing statue volcano

zocalo vendors

alfenique 3

alfenique 4

alfenique 8

alfenique singers

alfenique shrine 3

Please check back for Part 2, coming soon!

%d bloggers like this: