Day of the Dead in Mexico
By Rosita Arvigo| Abdominal Therapist and Educator | Belize.
October festivals in America bring ghosts, goblins, witches, and all manner of fantasies that play, dance, and laugh with death. Once known as All Hallow’s Eve, October 31 is believed to be the time when the veils between the living and the dead are thinned so passage from one realm to the other is possible.
Decades of my life have been lived in Mexico where Halloween is a religious festival celebrated by all. November 1, The Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos, is a time to remember and honor the lives of deceased family and friends who are invited home to partake of sweetbreads and their favorite foods.
The town of San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato celebrates this holy-day with aplomb. Colorfully decorated altars sports photographs, candles, sweetbreads, candy skulls, and vases of aromatic marigold flowers to guide the dead home. Front doors fling open to invite neighbors in for a piece of sweet bread and hot chocolate.
The central plaza is decorated with an enormous altar to commemorate local and national heroes. In San Miguel, ex-pats line the plaza with individual altars to deceased friends and family. Schools and organizations vie with each other to create the most beautiful carpets of marigolds, seeds, and red amaranth flowers.
Camped out for a picnic, families spend the night of October 31 and all day on November 1 at the cemetery. There is a dedicated section for mariachi musicians where the town’s best mariachis play happy music all day and into the night. A priest arrives to sprinkle each gravesite with holy water. I once saw two elder ladies dropping marigold flowers at abandoned gravesites were no relatives came to remember the departed. It was such an act of pure love and service that moved me so much, I followed them around for about an hour as they laid their flowers on the forgotten dead.