Dia de Los Muertos
By Cat Morgan
On Dia de los Muertos, or more commonly known as the “Day of the Dead”, Mexicans celebrate every year on November 1st, and 2nd throughout Mexico. Mexican peoples start preparing for this event months in advance, creating elaborate altars that honor their deceased loved ones. This holiday is greatly celebrated and is a large part of the Mexican heritage and culture, and is passed down from generation to generation.
If you enjoy Mexico, and would like to see true Mexican culture, Dia de los Muertos is a holiday not to be missed! I try to travel to as many of the Riviera Nayarit cemeteries that I can. Some of these cemeteries are very small, yet all are beautifully decorated as family members are remembered, and honored. I shot these photos, and they are from a very small cemetery, just off the Punta Mita Hwy up the back way to Sayulita, the Sayulita cemetery, and the night photos are from San Pancho, as well as the children’s street parade.
3000 Year Old Tradition
This 3000 year old ritual initially began in August, the 9th month of the Aztec Solar Calendar, and was celebrated for the entire month honoring the dead. This tradition continues today on the Riviera Nayarit and all of Mexico as families make altars in honor of a family member or loved one, or an outstanding community member that has benefited society that has passed away the previous year, and all loved ones. The Day of the dead begins November 1st, and is the day that celebrates those who died as children and is called the “Day of the Little Angels” or All Saints Day, and November second is to celebrate the adults, and is also known as All Souls Day.
A Mexican View of the Afterlife
Many Mexicans in Mexico traditionally have different views of the afterlife, as some of their beliefs include keeping your identity when you die, and then return for this day, the Dia de los Muertos. Elaborate alters are created with flowers, candles, and painted skeletons and skulls that are dressed up to honor their loved ones. This shows respect and that they are not forgotten. Alters are a way to guide the spirits home, and for meeting and celebrating in the cemeteries. People also dress up like Catrina or skeletons as part of the celebration with amazing make-up and lavish costumes.
Mexican folk art of the skeletons or skulls, which are very popular and sold all over the Riviera Nayarit and Mexico, are made out of chocolate and sugar (for the kids), ceramics, and paper mache. Well known Mexican Folk Artists create very elaborate altars, often signing their artwork.
The elements are important in an altar, which are water, earth and salt. Alters are constructed in several layers, and at least 3. On one side of the altar clothing from the deceased is laid out, and in the center of the first level a photograph with a path to the earth, incense and colored paper that symbolize the life and death aspects. Skulls, candles and marigolds are placed at the altar, along with water, fruit, bread and corn for the offering the feast along with music. The main colors are purple, black and orange; however, you will find many vibrant color creations.
Families gather at the gravesides and have a fiesta and visit as a time of honoring their loved ones, and celebrating their lives. There is a lot of creativity, time and energy put into the making of a Dia de los Muertos altar, and often contests are held. There are alters at all of the pueblo cemeteries, some of the churches, and there are usually altars in the town plazas.
Who is Catrina?
La Catrina, or also known as la Flaca, la Huesuda, la Pelona are a fixture on Dia de los Muertos, and all throughout the Riviera Nayarit and all of Mexico. You will find these fun skeletons everywhere for Dia de los Muertos, and all year long in stores and art shops dressed up in many different elaborate costumes, making beautiful collector’s items, or a fun gift for a friend, as you will be sure to find one that is dressed up fitting the work trades, such as musicians and also along traditional lines such as weddings.
Catrina is not a fancy model…this lady is la Muerte….and this mi amigos, is a lady of death!
Cat Morgan, owner of the Riviera Nayarit Fun Regional Network (www.RivieraNayaritFun.com) invites you for comments, questions, any Riviera Nayarit
news, or advertising interests.