In Oaxaca, few holidays are as big as the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. According to Discover Oaxaca Tours co-owner Suzanne Barbezat, the holiday is celebrated in a variety of ways.
Some are public, some private.
“Since we work with small groups, we can offer an inside view into what the holiday really means to the people who observe it,” Barbezat tells Travel Agent.
Visiting with local families is key to gaining insights about the part-Christian, part-indigenous tradition.
“Our clients interact with the family and join in some of their preparations: take a trip to the market, make some of the foods that are set out to welcome the spirits, and help set up the altar in the family's home. We also enjoy more public aspects of the holiday, visiting cemeteries and joining in street parades. It's a fun holiday but it is also one with a deep significance and you can really appreciate that when you get the chance to interact with locals,” Barbezat tells Travel Agent.
Though Oaxaca is a stronghold, visitors will encounter Day of the Dead observances throughout Mexico. Hotels are increasingly offering special programs and promotions to coincide with the holiday period.
At the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit, the Day of the Dead Experience is available October 30 through November 2. It includes a theatrical performance, costume party and themed activities for kids.
Guests will experience a number of traditions, such as pan de muertos (bread of the dead) and altars called ofrendas. They’re homage to the deceased filled with offerings such as sugar skulls, marigolds and food items.
Hoteliers are also taking imaginative steps to promote another aspect of Mexico’s heritage: tequila. It’s a worthier subject than most people realize. In fact, UNESCO has declared the “Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila” a cultural World Heritage Site.
“Tequila is quintessentially Mexican. Guests want to learn about it now, not simply drink it. We’re really proud to develop creative ways to teach them about it,” Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa general manager David Guana told Travel Agent at a recent event.
Casa Magna Marriott is unique in that it grows its own blue agave for proprietary tequila.
On the opposite coast, and an off-the-menu tequila tasting is available at Grand Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Cancun’s La Joya.
The three-part tasting includes a presentation about the history and aging process of the spirit. Guests sample tequilas aged from 45 days to 25 months. They will also learn about “sangrita,” the traditional accompaniment to the national spirit.
"The off-the-menu tequila tasting at La Joya is a great value ad for our guests, and a special way for them to experience the authentic Mexican cuisine and culture we take pride in showcasing at our resort," managing director Alberto Gurrola tells Travel Agent.
The off-the-menu tequila tasting is available upon request. It’s complimentary for guests dining at La Joya.