My First “Dia de Los Muertos” in Mexico!
Greetings from Mexico! After a day and a half of relaxing, wandering Cancun, enjoying authentic Mexican street tacos, having a few brews, hanging out with new friends, and a day at the beach, I finally encountered my first true Mexican experience. It was the evening of October 31, Halloween in America, and the Eve of Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead in Mexico. In Spanish class in high school we would celebrate it, but I did not recall it’s significance. Dia de los Muertos, as I’ve grown to understand it, is a two day festival to honor those who have passed. Each family creates an altar for their various family members who have moved on to another life.
These altars represent what each beloved family member cherished during their time on Earth. These altars varied from liquor and cigarettes to food and sports. The idea behind this is that the deceased will visit their altar as a spirit on these two days and will have access to all of their favorite past times and pleasures provided to them on their altar. It is a day of celebration of past lives and honoring the dead.
I first realized that Day of the Dead was November 1 & 2 about a week ago, and I was super excited to be in Mexico for this celebration. My hostel was also partaking in the celebration with an altar of its own for the guests and we each added our own personal touches to the altar. The first step was learning to make “dead bread” (pan muerto). “Dead bread” represents various things for each person, but there is a standard method to its creation. It began with dough, and I rolled it into a sphere in my hand prior to placing it on the table in flour.
At this time, I rolled two smaller pieces of dough. These were to be placed on the larger, circular piece of dough – they represent either bones or the cardinal directions. One last bit of dough and then my ‘dead bread’ was heated to dry out the moisture and later we added finishing touches.
At this time, I had heard of a Day of the Dead festival about five minutes away, Isaac, a Mexican from Tijuana, and myself headed down to the festival. There was street vendors galore, a stage with music and a play going on, and loads of altars. There were people dressed in costume and as a whole, it was a true local experience.
I was the only English speaker in attendance and Isaac was a great impromptu guide explaining the various parts of the festival that I did not understand. As we walked through the square, I truly felt like Rick Steves. I had a local explaining everything to me, as I tried all the new foods and conversed with the locals to the best my Spanish would allow.
It was a great first authentic Mexican experience and I can’t wait for more to come. Spoiler alert – many more experiences have already occurred to the point that I’m going to have a new page on my blog titled: Kyle Goes Local – My interactions with the locales I converse with daily. I’m excited to share more in the near future. As a side note, I recently updated my theme, so you may need to sign up for email alerts again.