Being a long-time resident of Tucson, which is rich in Mexican culture, I was aware of the concept of the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which coincides with Hallowe’en but had never seen it celebrated up close. It is believed that at midnight on October 31, the gates of heaven open and the souls of children are allowed to spend the day of Nov. 1 with their loved ones. This is Día de Muertos Chiquitos–The Day of the Little Dead. Then at midnight of Nov. 1, the adult souls are allowed to descend for El Dia de los Muertos (also All Saints Day or All Souls Day).
Leading up the days, the families construct elaborate altars decorated with candles, marigolds, toys, candies, favorite items of the dead one, folk art skeletons and skulls and food and drink for the weary souls to refresh themselves after their long journey from above.
On the afternoon of Nov. 2, the festivities move to the cemeteries where the families clean the tombs, play cards, picnic, listen to music, and reminisce about their loved ones. In this way, the lost loved ones are honored and remembered.
Here in La Cruz, we started the festivities on Oct. 31st with a multi-national (i.e. both gringos and locals attended) costume party at a local restaurant, Tescalama. John and I joined forces with our friend Lynn and we were a tequila shot, not very elaborate costumes at all (just some colored shirts and pictures from the internet).
As you can see, our fellow gringos were much more imaginative.
When we first arrived, we were greeted by a decorative display. Within minutes, something went awry and the crepe paper was in flames. Keith, one of the managers, had to bring out the fire extinguisher which caused more than a little excitement.
For Dia de los Muertos, the altars were set up in the village park, and the school children had a parade in their special outfits and makeup. One altar was for a young man who apparently loved motorcycles as there was, among other memorabilia, a mannequin wearing a leather jacket. During the evening festivities a group of men on motorcycles revved their engines as part of the ceremonies.
In Puerto Vallarta altars were located all along the malecon that runs beside the sea.
(Many thanks to Annette from La Cruz Inn and Nan from Marina Vallarta for sharing the photos on Facebook.)
From National Geographic: Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
And doesn’t that sound fine?