Day of the Dead

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For the second time, I had a chance to experience and take part in one of the most recognizable Mexican festivities, Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead. 

The preparations are similar to those Christmassy ones, it start weeks before. The first signs that the day is coming is when the pan de muerto, the bread of the dead is available in bakeries. Than the cut out papers are hung underneath nearly every ceiling in the country. Than the central part of the decorations-altars (ofrendas). The altars are offered to the loved ones who have passed away. Ideally, ofrenda consist of various levels, each lined with  different items. On the bottom, a typical flowers are guiding the spirits of the dead, than sugar skulls, bread of the dead, candles, photos of the dead that the altar is devoted to, some of their favorite objects or treats and drinks.

This year, the most popular altars were devoted to Juan Gabriel, one of the most popular Latin American (Mexican) musicians of all times.

The first video is a must watch!

 

This one turned out to be the type of song one would set at their alarm to wake them up each morning 🙂 (Good morning, Mr. Sunshine). I’d say it’s like a It’s gonna be a lovely day by Bill Withers  kind of a morning song.

 

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November is also filled with shows depicting the prehispanic traditions, referring to the cult of the death.

In Xochimilco, also called Venice of Mexico, you can see a representation of the Spanish conquest. Xochimilco is a red of canals, similar to the ones in Italy; it is also what is left from the prehispanic era when most of Mexico was based on a system of lakes.

Back then, it was called Tenochitlan and is imagined to have looked more or less like this:

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Today, Xochimilco is known worldwide as it figures on the UNESCO list. Chinampas, the unique agriculture systems created by the Aztecs were sustaining Tenochitlan as it allowed growing amaranth, maize (corn), beans etc.  I think amaranth is now one of those overpriced superfoods you get in Europe in Ecological/ Yoga/ Vegan/ Healthy shops, while here it is so common I honestly had too much and don’t like it anymore. I first saw amaranth in Barra de Algeria, a bar with nuts and cranberries sold in the metro for around 20euro cents. It is often added to veggie patties or maid-based drinks, as a fruit topping.

Back to Xochimilco, it is now a super drinking option for weekends, the typical plan is inviting loads of friends, getting loads of drinks and spend a sunny day having a blast and quesadillas bought on other floating boats.

Anyways, the show la Llorona takes place just in November at nights. Llorona- “the crying lady” is known beyond Mexico and each country adapts the legend to its own cultural context; it exist in Guatemala, Venezuela, Texas, and the version varies in different states of Mexico. Here, it was a lady crying out loud because of the massacre on the Aztecs.

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Xochimilco boat
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Xochimilco boat
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Shows depicting prehispanic history

 

Visiting one of the graveyards, I have realized once again how different Day of the Dead is from the one I used to celebrate at home. While in Poland this day is rather associated with  gray graves (although lighten up beautifully by thousands of candles at night), gloomy weather, and rather nostalgia than celebration. It’s time to reunite with your family and reflect and remember the dead ones.

In Mexico, everything is colorful, even the graves. They are often build with tiny chapels on the top, or other mini constructions depending on what was that the person liked. This was one of my favorites, with a mini chapel which reminded me of doll houses I used to play with.

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Colorful graves with special inscriptions on
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Coctail mugs

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Sugar cane, fruit, flowers, sugar skulls, candles…

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Spending the Day of the Dead away from Mexico City I wasn’t able to see the altars placed on the main city square, however they seem impressing.

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This year was a new activity was added to the celebrations calendar- a march, inspired by the one from James Bond. I heard it was amazing, but there were also some criticisms like “why do we have to create new traditions just because gringos think it’s cool”.

 

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Pan de muerto- bread of the dead- with matcha spread

 

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