For this #throwbackthursday, and because we’re so close to Halloween, I will be taking a look at the day of the dead celebrations in Patzcuaro and Janitzio, Mexico!
A few years ago, my wife and I were lucky enough to be in Mexico for Halloween, which is known there as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated on the 31st of October and 1st and 2nd of November. While Halloween in places such as Canada and the USA has some very fun traditions such as costumes and trick or treating, in Mexico the focus is to pay respect to those who have passed on to the other life, and to commemorate their lives through offerings, candle vigels and various ceremonies.
Our journey took us to Patzcuaro, where we were lucky enough to find a hotel room that was very close to the lake, in which the island of Janitzio (where most of the activities and festivities take place) is located. That evening we walked around the town to take in the mainland festivities. One of the ceremonies that caught our attention was “La Danza de los Viejitos” (The Dance of the Old Men), which consists of a choreograph where apparently old, frail men engage in an energetic dance, before becoming old again!
The next morning, we went to the docks, had a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, and prepared to go to Janitzio.To get to the island, you take a ferry which takes approximately 10-15 minutes which is spent watching the wildlife and merchants trying to sell you churros (which are delicious). Once you arrive, it’s all about walking!
Throughout the day, there are different activities to see and do, including smaller ceremonies and festivities. At night however, is when the larger ceremonies begin. Traditionally, many families will go to the cemetery of the island and create a small alter at the tomb of their loved ones. The altar usually includes items that the deceased liked, such as soda bottles, beer, or toys if they were children. The altar is also decorated with marigold flowers and candles. With so many of the tombs decorated in this manner, the cemetery seem to come to life. There are also boat ceremonies which are amazing to see!
It was great to have the opportunity to see these all the festivities! While I did notice that some of the north American traditions such as pumpkins and kids asking for treats seem to be sneaking into the holiday, it still seems that the traditions have been very well preserved, and it was great to photograph it all!
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