My Dia De Los Meurtos in Mexico

When one first hears mention of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), the emotions evoked are usually a mix of curiosity, reverence, and perhaps an ever-so-slight shiver of fear. Ever since I attended a local Dia De Los Muertos exhibit for Spanish class extra credit my freshman year of high school, I have been both intrigued and infatuated with the holiday. While the traditions of the holiday differ from city to state to village in Mexico, what remains constant is the idea that on the nights of November 1st and 2nd, the spirits of the dearly departed are welcomed back with outstretched arms and warmly celebrated. It was no coincidence that I visited Mexico for the very first time right as the celebrations and observances were commencing. 

From my first moment meandering Mexico City's streets, where colorful cutout papers were strung from the roofs of buildings and business alike, Dia De Los Muertos was omnipresent. Handcrafted skeletons partied on balconies, rode in the back of trolleys, and sat frozen in time at ofrendas (home made remembrance altars) around the capital city. The ofrenda has always been the facet of the festival that I was most infatuated with. The idea of remembering loved ones with little tokens of things that the departed enjoyed during their life is such an honest way to pay respect. Every time I saw one, I could not help but think of my friends and family gathered around an ofrenda full of maps, hockey pucks, pizza, Hoegaarden beer, and other mementos of my life one day. 

Museum of Popular Culture
Mystical Mixquic
One of the biggest organized Dia De Los Muertos celebrations in Mexico is in the town of San Andres Mixquic. San Andres Mixquic is a about an hour or so drive from the historic center of Mexico City, and although it has been swallowed up by suburban Mexico City, it still feels several decades away. Upon arrival, it was obvious that this was an extremely well attended affair. The main street was packed with people, and at times the traffic didn't move at all. This did allow for thorough inspection and consumption of street food though, so it wasn't a total loss. Luckily, the mass of humanity parted near the entrance to the cemetery. The holiday activities in San Andres Mixquic were all centered around the graveyard which rings the San Andres Apostol church. Inside the graveyard, family members solemnly paying their respects mingled with local Mexican tourists, the towns teenagers in both scary and sexy costumes (just like home), and of course the odd camera-touting gringo or two. 

 San Andres Apostol Church

The cemetery in Mixquic was without a doubt, the highlight of my entire Dia De Los Muertos experience in Mexico. Although the small cemetery was a bit overrun by observers, when the breeze would waft incense in my face as I crossed paths with a grave covered in marigolds and candles, I knew it was the experience I had been looking for.