Since we arrived here a week ago, there have been booths and tiendas set up with sugar skulls. Mexico is where Dia de los Muertos originated and so the festivities and traditions surrounding the event still supercede the goings-on of El Cervantino (a festival celebrating Miguel Cervantes and art in general) and the arrival of the Carrera Panamericana cars.
Dia de Muertos takes place over the course of three days: October 31st (All Hallows Eve), November 1st (All Saint’s Day), and November 2nd (All Soul’s Day). The festivities are a hybrid of Catholicism and paganism taking place during the minor Christian holidays just noted according to traditions that have been embraced by the indios for hundreds of years. The Aztecs, for example, would celebrate a whole Month of the Dead during August. The goal of the festivities is to attract the souls of the dead to commune with the living using various methods that are thought to tempt the deceased back to earth.
Today, as Lydian and I wove through the streets to find Escuela Falcon (a Spanish language school in Guanajuato), there were countless vendors selling marigolds (cempasuchiles). These aren’t the same kind of marigolds that grow in Nebraska. These are marigolds on steroids. They’re huge and they’re prolific. And apparently, the Mexican people (and people in other cultures as well, such as the Hindus, for example) believe that the spirits of the departed are attracted by the etheric energies given off by these flowers. Another type of flower with a slightly purplish hue was also on offer today.
The Dia de Muertos traditions vary from town-to-town in Mexico and we’ve decided to mostly stay close to home in
Guanajuato to see what this community’s traditions are. Though Patzcuaro in Michoacan is where some of the expats here have recommended that we go, I’m just as excited to see what Guanajuato will do for their Dia de lost Muertos festivities. The Guanajuato Day of the Dead celebrations have been featured in National Geographic Travelers, I think. In Patzcuaro, people will ride in winged boats called mariposas to the cemetery and then stay up all night. That sounds cool, but I’m just as excited about our big plans tomorrow night.
The Escuela Falcon offers nightly events during the week and tomorrow night (November 1, 2013), they will be taking two groups out to the cemetery in Guanajuato. We opted to go with the later group at 11:00 PM (there was an earlier, 8:00 PM group going too) because apparently, there will be more going on at this time and therefore more to see. Latinos don’t even get started partying until 10:00 PM apparently. This is when all the music and the fireworks would start for the El Cervantino festival, so I think we made the right choice and I can’t wait to see what it’s all about.