For many, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is synonymous with sugar skulls and elaborate skull face painting. In reality, it is a two-day series of festivities that light up Mexico with colors and a seemingly omnipresent joy. Every year, on November 1st and 2nd, Mexicans take place in an adored demonstration of love and respect for deceased relatives.
In towns and cities throughout Mexico, and the world, Day of the Dead is full of symbolic rituals and heartfelt offerings accompanied by a celebration: elaborate costumes, bustling parades and parties, masterful makeup, and more than a handful of reasons to smile. In this post, we will enumerate how you can celebrate Día de Muertos in Mexico City along with a short history.
Día de los Muertos dates back thousands of years to the reign of the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was merely one of life’s phases and was not to be mourned. The dead lived on in everyday life in both memory and spirit, and during Día de los Muertos, they had the opportunity to temporarily return to the world of the living. However, the Día de los Muertos celebration we all know today is now a mixture of pre-Hispanic rituals and Christian influence, such as the moving of the dates to November 1 and 2 — All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar.
How to celebrate Día de los Muertos in Mexico City?
In honor of one of Mexico’s most endearing celebrations, the capital offers a large quantity of free activities, from mega ofrendas (offerings) in the main plazas to a (fairly new) Catrina parade. Without a doubt, Mexico City knows how to uniquely embrace their dead; as proof, here is a list of the activities taking place in 2018 that are worth experiencing.
1. La llorona (The Weeping Woman) in Xochimilco
Take a nighttime ride through the canals of Xochimilco capping with a show narrating the legend of la llorona (The Weeping Woman). This year the spectacle will take place between October 5 and November 18 and will be celebrating its twenty-five years on stage. Also, this event is the only of its kind that has won multiple awards for its efforts in preserving a piece of Mexican history, recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
2. Día de Muertos Parade 2018
This year marks the third edition of the Día de Muertos parade — a celebration full of iconic folklore associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead. As every year, you can awe over decorated floats, José Guadalupe Posada’s classic catrinas turned into giant marionettes, and Day of the Dead-themed balloons. Contrary to popular knowledge, this parade was not a norm in Mexico City until the release of the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre; in the film, Bond casually weaves through the parade before changing into a suit and pursuing his targets. The scene made an international impact, and Mexico City saw an opportunity to boost tourism while finding a new, fun way to celebrate their beloved holiday.
This year the event will take place on Saturday, October 27, from 11am to 4pm. It will begin at the Estela de Luz monument and end at the Zócalo Capitalino.
3. El Bonito: pan de muerto and calavera festival at Huerto Roma Verde
Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) has become the gastronomic symbol of the season. To celebrate all its meanings, Huerto Roma Verde is organizing a festival in collaboration with more than forty artisanal bakeries from around the city. The event will have a wide variety of breads, from the most traditional to organic and vegan options. The only rule is that no one can use any type of disposable materials (styrofoam, plastic). To take your favorite breads home, you will need to bring your own sustainable containers for storing and/or drinking.
The festival will take place every day from Thursday, October 25, to Sunday, October 28, from 11am to 7pm at Huerto Roma Verde (Jalapa 234, Roma).
4. Mexico City’s mega ofrendas
Altars are the soul of the Day of the Dead because behind each offering, small or large, there lays emotion and meaning. To honor this tradition, this year Mexico City will host two very important mega ofrendas (large offerings): one in the Zócalo (organized by the Ministry of Culture) in remembrance of migrants who have lost their lives, and another in the Plaza Santo Domingo where the UNAM will commemorate the students who lost their lives during the massacre of October 2, 1968.
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