Halloween bleeds into Day of the Dead in Mexico, making for days of ghoulish fun. Preparations start weeks before, then at the end of October, the kids dress up like something scary, with full-on face painting, and go trick-or-treating from store to store. Only in a few Americanized neighborhoods do you go to houses. Instead the stores—whether they normally sell candy or not—will give out sweets to the kids. For a tienda on a busy street in the center, that can be a real investment!
My daughter did the rounds again, dressed up like a character from Adventure Time instead of a ghoul, raking in crazy candy like you’ve never seen before, including some with hot chili in them.
On November 1 we caught another Catrina fashion show put on by the Guanajuato government workers in a park. It’s not widely publicized, so it doesn’t get too crazy crowded. When we lived here the first time I shot some great video of it that you can see here: Catrinas on the Loose. This year Donna and I just shot photos from various angles and here’s a taste of what we saw:
Later that night we headed to the center of town for a Day of the Dead themed show that included a great stop-motion animation film made by students at a nearby university, with lots of Catrina figures again making an appearance. Then we checked out the stands selling alfeniques
—sugar skulls and figures purchased around Day of the Dead and sometimes left on alters. (The chocolate ones are obviously meant for immediate munching.) Some of the home alters are simple affairs, with at least one photo of the deceased, various symbolic elements like pan de muerte (bread of death), and items that the person liked: maybe some tequila, certain foods, books.
This all comes together at the cemetery, where relatives come to the grave with flower displays and decorations. It doesn’t stop there though. The visitors will usually hang out for a while, having a snack or drink with the dead and talking about the good times in the past. Sometimes an alter will be set up here as well, with sugar skulls and mementos arranged on or around it. Go to this online photo album to see the alfiniques, alters, flower set-ups, and the cemetery action around Day of the Dead.
Day of the Dead photos
If you look closely in those cemetery shots, you’ll see that Dia de los Muertos is far from a solemn affair. You’ll see a cotton candy vendor, musicians ready to play the dead’s favorite song for them and the family, and people having a good time together. Outside the cemetery in Guanajuato, it’s like a festival. You can get lunch, buy some street stall tacos, or purchase a toy from the vendors set up for several blocks.
The most famous place in Mexico to see all this in action is Oaxaca, but because of that it’s full of tourists. Patzcuaro used to be the next big one, but as the state of Michoacan has gotten dangerous, the intrepid have the place to themselves. There are plenty of other options though and the holiday follows a similar pattern throughout the country. Ask around and keep an eye out if you’re fortunate enough to be in Mexico between October 31 and November 2. There will be something going on if you can find the right spots.
Follow this link for more Day of the Dead in Guanajuato photos from when we lived here the first time.