Death can be a morbid and solemn subject in many cultures, but in Mexico, it's a cause for celebration -- at least for two nights a year. From November 1-2, people throughout the country deck their homes, streets and relatives' graves with flowers, candles, confetti and colorful skulls for the Day of the Dead.
The traditional festival honoring the deceased centers around the belief that the living and the dead can commune during the brief period. With faces painted as skulls and bodies made up like skeletons, throngs of performers marched through the streets of Mexico City in a Day of the Dead parade.
Mexico City Dia de los Muertos Parade 2019
Thousands of onlookers cheered and applauded as a giant raised fist constructed out of hard hats and pickaxes led the procession, signifying the defiant spirit of a country hit with one of its worst calamities in decades.
Mexico City's Metropolitan Cathedral - Day of Day Mega Offering 2019
All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, or Solemnity of All Saints, is a Christian festival celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In Western Christianity, it is celebrated on November the 1st by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, and other Protestant churches, November 1st is also the day before All Souls Day. The Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic Churches and Byzantine Lutheran Churches celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Oriental Orthodox churches of Chaldea and associated Eastern Catholic churches celebrate All Saints' Day on the first Friday after Easter.
Mictēcacihuātl - Queen of Mictlān
Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. In Aztec mythology, Mictēcacihuātl is Queen of Mictlān, the underworld, ruling over the afterlife with Mictlāntēcutli, another deity who is her husband. It has become a national symbol and as such is taught (for educational purposes) in the nation's schools. Many families celebrate a traditional "All Saints' Day" associated with the Catholic Church.
In the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre, the opening sequence features a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. At the time, no such parade took place in Mexico City; one year later, due to the interest in the film and the government desire to promote the pre-Hispanic Mexican culture, the federal and local authorities decided to organize an actual "Día de Muertos" parade through Paseo de la Reforma and Centro Historico on October 29, 2016, which was attended by 250,000 people.
Day of Death Offerings and Calaveras
Death can be a morbid and solemn subject in many cultures, but in Mexico, it's a cause for celebration -- at least for two nights a year. From November 1-2, people throughout the country deck their homes, streets and relatives' graves with flowers, candles, confetti and colorful skulls for the Day of the Dead. The traditional festival honoring the deceased centers around the belief that the living and the dead can commune during the brief period.
With faces painted as skulls and bodies made up like skeletons, throngs of performers marched through the streets of Mexico City in a Day of the Dead parade. Thousands of onlookers cheered and applauded as a giant raised fist constructed out of hard hats and pickaxes led the procession, signifying the defiant spirit of a country hit with one of its worst calamities in decades.
On November 2, 2017, thousands of onlookers cheered and applauded as a giant raised fist constructed out of hard hats and pickaxes led the procession, signifying the defiant spirit of a country hit with one of its worst calamities in decades. An 8.2-magnitude quake — the most powerful to hit Mexico in a century — struck off the Pacific Coast shortly before midnight on Sept 7, 2017 setting off tsunami warnings, burying hundreds of people under collapsed buildings and scattering frightened residents into the streets.
Participants and Onlookers Alike Painted their Faces as Colorful Skulls — Many in the Style of Mexico’s Iconic Figure “La Catrina”
indigenous Mexica culture, mixed with Christian superstition brought by Spanish colonizers. The Mexica were the dominant indigenous population in pre-Hispanic Mexico. The modern celebration is based on a Mexica legend that after death, they traveled through the nine regions of the underworld, known as Mictlan. According to Octavio Murillo, heritage director at the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, a person's "final destination was determined by how they behaved in life." The ancient pagan tradition has since developed into a modern festival. "It's a celebration with many years of history, to which indigenous peoples have incorporated new religious elements from Christian tradition, such as the gathering of offerings," said Murillo.
The Calavera Catrina - Dapper Skeleton - Most Representative Image in the Day of the Dead Festival
There are dancing devils. Towering skeletons. Altars festooned with marigolds. All parad down Mexico City’s main thoroughfare to kick off the annual Day of the Dead festivities that run through Nov. 2 with rituals continuing in town plazas, homes and cemeteries leading up to All Saints’ Day. More than 700 performers prepared for months for the colorful afternoon procession along more than four miles of the expansive Paseo de la Reforma.
Children Had Their Faces Painted in the Style of La Catrina as they Prepared to March
They were joined by a group wearing fluorescent aid-worker vests who marched with fists in the air — a tribute to the rescuers who had made the gesture to demand silence as they listened for desperate survivors in the rubble from the second quake. But the earthquakes did not diminish the centuries-old Mexican celebration. Participants and onlookers alike painted their faces as colorful skulls — many in the style of Mexico’s iconic figure known as La Catrina.
Musicians Dressed as a Mexican Character also Known as “The Elegant Death”
The Mexico City government organizes various activities for the festival, which in 2003 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Every year, the festival began with a massive parade of "Calavera Catrinas" -- the iconic cartoon skeleton wearing a European-style hat -- and ended with an offering at the Chapultepec Forest. Catrina, who was created by cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1910, was a satirical dig at indigenous people who tried to mimic colonial culture. She has since been adopted as the embodiment of the Day of the Dead.
Also in the procession: A Puppet Depicting the Skeleton of a Dog
The parade concluded with mariachi musicians belting out Mexican folk songs from a float covered with flowers and colored paper like the boats that cruise the canals in the south of the city. “The point of this parade is to celebrate life,” its artistic director, Alejandra González Anaya, said. “It’s to put on the radar of Mexicans an important tradition,” she added. “We feel proud of showing something so important from Mexico to the world.”
More than 700 Performers Prepared for Months for the Parade
Along More than Four Miles of the Paseo de la Reforma
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Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.