Celebrating Dia de los Muertos in Mexico

While everyone in the United States is preparing for Halloween next month, people in Mexico are getting ready for Dia de los Muertos – better known here as “Day of the Dead.” The celebration of those who have passed begins each year on November 1, but many towns and cities across the country hold celebrations and festivals that last for days at a time. The lively holiday honors the dead by combining indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, a tradition that was brought to Latin America and Mexico by Spanish Conquistadors. To avoid insulting the dead with mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience with food, drinks, parties and activities that the dead once enjoyed while living. For those in Mexico at the end of October and beginning of November, a Dia de los Muertos festival is something not to be missed. Check out some of the top places to visit during the celebrations here.

Oaxaca – Southern Mexico

MOC Adventures Day of the Dead from Carlos Hernandez Topete on Vimeo.


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In Oaxaca’s state capital, Oaxaca City, celebrations for Dia de los Muertos begin a week before the first and second of November. Plaza de los Muertos is an elaborate initiation to Dia de los Muertos that takes place in each market of the city, though the biggest celebration can be found at the Mercado de Abastos. Each plaza/market offers all of the necessary items needed to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, including altar decorations, candles, flowers, ingredients for recipes, drinks and more. MOC Adventures is offering its annual Dia de los Muertos tour to visitors of Oaxaca this fall, where guests stay at the Mexican boutique hotel Casa Catrina, participate in a variety of educational workshops (mask making, cooking classes), local site tours (Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden, Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca) and multiple authentic Dia de los Muertos experiences, like the local parades and festivals.

Visit www.mocadventures.com/muertos.php for more.

Dia de Los Muertos Dinner at The Resort at Pedregal - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

For those looking to indulge in some fine food and drink, The Resort at Pedregal’s Fifth Annual Art of Taste Food & Wine Festival is quickly approaching, happening this year from October 26 through October 30, 2016. This year’s theme celebrates Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” and includes an impressive line-up of star chefs and top sommeliers. The event starts off with a welcome champagne reception and continues through the weekend offering guests instructional seminars on crafting fresh salsa, tequila tastings and how to pair wine and cheeses. An Ocean-to-Table class will teach guests the proper preparation of ceviches, aguachiles and tiraditos. A Dia de los Muertos dinner during the festival will include inspiration from local Mexican customs, complete with musicians food booths and artisans. Janice Wald Henderson, writer for Food & Wine, Robb Report, Bon Appetite among others will be the host of this year’s event.

Tickets are available online now or by calling 844-733-7342. Visit www.theresortatpedregal.com/diningsite/festival-2016 for more.

Aguascalientes – Central Mexico

Festival de Calaveras, or “Festival of Skulls,” celebrates Dia de los Muertos through an art show which honors the dead as well as Jose Guadalupe Posada, an Aguascalentense artist turned world-renowned master engraver who is famous for creating “La Catrina,” the icon and banner of Dia de los Muertos, back in 1912. The original metal carving of La Catrina is located in Aguascaliente’s Posada Museum, open to visitors year round as well as during Festival de Calaveras. Also a popular destination during Festival de Calaveras is Aguascaliente’s Museum of Death, which honors those who have passed with more than 2,000 death-related exhibits. Many also tour historic downtown Aguascalientes, as well as the four traditional neighborhoods in the area to discover the Legends of Aguascalientes.

See the website of last year’s festival at www.festivaldecalaveras.com.mx/en/.

Xcaret Park – Cancun, Mexico

The Festival of the Traditions of Life and Death, held each year at Xcaret Park in Cancun from October 31-November 3, was named a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humankind by UNESCO back in 2003. The celebration aims to bring together locals and visitors as well as the Maya communities, artistic groups, independent artists and local societies encompassing diversity and cultural wealth to celebrate the Day of the Dead by recovering ethnic, traditional and contemporary customs that refer to the ancient Mexican tradition. During the festival, guests will enjoy the region’s traditional cuisine, as well as typical dulces (or sweets), rituals alluding to the Hanal Pixan, workshops, crafts, offerings and altars. Visual art exhibitions like painting, drawing, photography, short films, theater, regional and contemporary dances will also be present at the festival. During the evenings, candle-lit tours of the cemetery that’s been decorated by neighboring villages and the state are available to guests as well.

Visit www.en.festivaldevidaymuerte.com

The Dia de Los Muertos Program at Viceroy Zihuatanejo - Ixtapa, Mexico

Viceroy Zihuatanejo comes alive between October 31 and November 2, 2016, to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. The resort on the Pacific is partnering with local art gallery GALART to offer guests a three-day Day of the Dead program. The program starts with a cocktail reception at the resort’s La Mera restaurant where critically acclaimed folk art studio El Santo de Madrazo will be featuring an exhibition titled El Mexico de los Mexicanos, which includes an “ofrenda” to Frida Kahlo, displaying personal items, from favorite Tequilas and cigarettes to books and paintbrushes. Other highlights of the program include a traditional Day of the Dead altar decorated with photos, skulls and other themed elements, homemade “Pan Muerto” (a traditional bread served during the holiday that will be available during complimentary in room coffee service), and mixologists at the bar preparing a variety of “bloody” cocktails. Traditional live music and dances will be ongoing throughout the resort over the course of the program as well.

Visit www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/zihuatanejo/activities/calendar_of_events for more.

Viceroy Zihuatanejo's Dia de los Muertos
Photo by Viceroy Zihuatanejo

Honorable Mentions:

If you can’t make it down to Mexico to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, there are various places in the United States that are honoring the cultural celebration.

Mano a Mano: Mexican Culture Without Borders - New York City, New York

Now in its 14th year, Mano a Mano brings authentic Day of the Dead celebrations to New York City thanks to public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts. The festival, held this year from October 28-31, offers guests art-making, live music and more. Attendees are encouraged to bring photos of their loved ones who have passed on to place at the altars to honor them during the Dia de los Muertos celebrations.

Learn more: www.manoamano.us/en/day-of-the-dead-dia-de-muertos-nyc.html

Dia de Los Muertos at Hollywood Forever Cemetery - Los Angeles, California

The 17th annual Dia de los Muertos festival at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery will take place this year on October 28 and 29. The event includes food vendors from around Los Angeles, arts and crafts vendors, a children’s art project area, an art exhibit in the Cathedral Mausoleum curated by Luis Villanueva, a costume contest for the best dressed Calaca (or “skeleton”), four stages of musical and theatrical performances, over 100 altars created by members of the community to honor their loved ones and a vibrant, traditional processionals, complete with traditional Aztec blessings and regional musical-dance group dedications.

Learn more: www.ladayofthedead.com/

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