Tuesday 5 November 2019

Día de los Muertos en Mexico City

This weekend I had the opportunity to celebrate 'Día de los Muertos' in Mexico City. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday which has its roots in pre-Colombian culture, as the Aztecs and Mayans viewed death as a normal, natural part of the human experience. Rather than signifying the end, it was considered part of a cycle of transformation. The Mayans believed in 'el Ka'a put sikil' (Rebirth), lending itself to the idea that the souls of the deceased will awaken and return every year to be with their living relatives and savour traditional food and drink they enjoyed in life. This rich tradition remains vibrant in Mexico today, as relatives and friends build altars known as 'ofrendas', on which they leave food, drink, candles, photos and bright marigolds to welcome the souls of the deceased.

I mainly celebrated Día de los Muertos in Coyoacán. In the main plaza there was a marquee decorated with ofrendas inspired from the different states in Mexico, showing their individual traditions and celebrations.

 I was particularly in awe at those of San Luis Potosí, Nayarit and Quintana Roo, and I enjoyed learning about the traditions in particular states, for example the 'Limpieza de los Santos Restos, ritual funerario de la comunidad de Pomuch', which takes place in Campeche. According to this custom, when a person passes away, they are buried for 3 years, after which the remains are exhumed and the bones placed in a wooden box. From this point on, the bones are cleaned by their relatives every 2nd of November, in a tradition known as 'Choo Ba'ak'. The inhabitants of Pomuch believe that if the family do not clean the bones of the deceased properly, their spirits will be restless and roam throughout the town.

Quintana Roo
The atmosphere in Coyoacán over the weekend was truly amazing. I went every day to enjoy live music, traditional Mexican food and visit the ofrendas. A stage was set up on which artists from different states performed traditional Mexican songs and dances. Someone told me that on Saturday 125,000 people visited the plaza of Coyoacán, making it the second most popular place after the Zócalo!

Around the season of Día de los Muertos, the panaderías in Mexico City become filled with 'Pan de Muertos', a delicious sweet bread which is designed to represent the bones of the deceased. It is consumed by family members and also left on some altars as a form of 'ofrenda'. You can get them rellenos (filled) with chocolate or just plain- both are delicious!!

On Saturday the 2nd of November, the main parade for Día de los Muertos took place in the centre of Mexico City. I managed to get a good spot on Reforma to watch from start to finish, as the Zócalo was much more crowded. It was absolutely incredible; it included traditional dances and examples of rituals from various states in Mexico, often drawing on Mexico's pre-colombian heritage. Someone explained to me however that the parades for Día de los Muertos have only existed since the last James Bond movie!! I was struck that the weekend was filled with true celebration and excitement, without the taboo of death, due to the belief that the dead would be offended by mourning. I did find it slightly odd, however, that funeral companies used the parades to advertise their businesses. 

I found this to be such a special and unforgettable experience. I hope to come back to celebrate in the future, perhaps in another Mexican state such as Oaxaca or Michoacán! 

1 comment:

  1. That sounds so wonderful. It was great hearing more about the celebration and what it entails!


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