During the Catholic holidays of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, Mexico celebrates Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This national holiday taking place each November engulfs the country in revelry, making it an ideal time to visit Mexico.
Celebrating the afterlife may be seen as macabre, however indigenous observances can be traced back to the Aztecs. The departed aren’t remembered during the holiday, but considered present, with graves lavishly decorated to coax the spirits from the afterlife. To arrange your trip to Mexico to coincide with Dia de Muertos contact your personal travel manager.
Big festivals are held in Mexico City and Oaxaca, but smaller shindigs take place across the whole of Latin America. Oaxaco is Mexico’s artistic centre, with a plethora of museums and art galleries. During the festivities, the city’s artistic flair is invested in shrine creation and the local market heaves with Day of the Dead decorations.
The central square becomes the epicentre of the celebrations, hosting a giant Day of the Dead sand tapestry. Smaller tapestries, usually depicting comical images of skeletons, are showcased outside homes in the run up to the festival. Tradition dictates that on the ninth day, sand is poured over a loved one’s grave in dedication.
The city’s general cemetery, the Panteon San Miguel is speckled with candles and shrines throughout the holiday and consequently well worth a visit. Flanked by mountains and surrounded by stunning scenery, Oaxaco provides the perfect base for exploring quaint local villages. The catacombs in local neighbourhoods also host authentic Day of the Dead celebrations away from the crowds that sometimes suffocate celebrations in Oaxaco.
For a bona fide Dia de Muertos experience, head south to the mountain village of San Adres Mixquic. Excavations revealed that locals used to decorate their homes with stone skulls, and as a result the community became synonymous with the celebrations. Preparations begin months in advance, with marigold seeds sewn in encircling fields. Marigolds are closely associated with death and are consequently ubiquitous throughout the festival. Some residents even leave a trail of marigolds from their front doors to the graveyard, so the dead can find their way home easily.
During the holiday, various artworks lines the streets of San Adres Mixquic and local schools proudly display their efforts. The ex-monastery of San Andres Apostol becomes the village’s focal point, with the surrounding graveyard illuminated by candlelight and graves decorated with flowers and photographs.
Travellers should remember, while the Day of the Dead is a celebration, exercise the same respect you would when entering any graveyard. Be careful where you stand, refrain from raising your voice and ask permission before taking photographs.
Start planning your trip today with your local, personal travel manager. Visit http://www.travelmanagers.com.au/ptm-search/