While Americans are celebrating Halloween and All Saints’ Day, Mexico has its own sort of eerie celebration. Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead which began as a ritual by the Aztecs 3,000 years ago is now publically celebrated on November 2nd as a way to honor friends and family who have passed on.
Costumes are festive and elaborate, based on the now iconic catrina – intricate face painting resembling a skull, made famous by 20th century Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. The original intent was to mock upper-class Mexicans who had replaced their heritage with European culture. Because the intent is to celebrate the deceased, the costumes – especially for women – are elaborate, incorporating vivid colors and multi-layered ruffles, The costumes are worn in parades with prizes being awarded for the most outrageous outfit in many cities.
During Day of the Dead, families decorate the graves of their loved ones and build ofrendas – private alters where they place offerings of marigolds, favorite foods of the deceased, traditional sugar skulls, and sometimes tequila or mezcal. They gather to pray and tell stories of remembrance about the dead and to eat pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a small sweet bread in the shape of a tear drop.
While Day of the Dead celebration has spread to many other parts of the world, the most vibrant revelries are still in Mexico, and the 3-day party in Xcaret in the Riveria Maya is arguably the most elaborate and festive. Live theatrical performances, expositions, concerts, parades, dancing, altars, tours and religious ceremonies take place to celebrate the occasion.
Ancient Mayan Dances
Set in a replica of a Mayan jungle village complete with an underground river, the deep bellowing of the conch followed by pounding drums marks the beginning of the ritual dance. Painted warriors dance in rhythmic movement, telling the mythological story of Mexican deity and sacrifice.
Read the rest of “When You’re Better Off Dead in Mexico” in the Huffington Post.