Celebrating the Day of the Dead

Dia de Muertos, Mazatlan, 2016

A little Catrina girl

I was in Mazatlan during the Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead), a Mexican holiday, and I was BLOWN AWAY!  I must share it. This festival is a fantastic blend of thoughts on life and death, wrapped together with artistic visions. At first, the folk art captured my heart, and then it shook my bones. Because I saw things I never expected. I was just experiencing this holiday for the first time in my life…and I really got into it!

Here is a gallery of the glorious things I saw that night:

It happened just like this: I happened to be in Mazatlan last week, a touristo looking for something to do. I asked a shop lady what happened on Halloween in Mazatlan? The shop lady clued me in that Mexico was about to celebrate Dia de Muertos on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 1st and 2nd and that I could go to the parade downtown. There will be lots of Catrinas she said, meaning female skeletons, made beautiful with pretty hair and glitter.

The shop lady explained to me that on Tuesday Mazatlan celebrated the Angelitos (the little angles), for all the little children who have died. On Wednesday Mazatlan celebrated dead adults, by going to the cemeteries to party at their graves. The people go to the cemetery and laugh and play music to your dead family and friends. In so doing celebrate their lives, and remember them!

Dia de Muertos, Mazatlan, 2016

The scariest Catrina I saw. Gustav Klimt must have rolled over in his grave…

Since I was you experiencing this holiday for the first time, the deeper meanings came to me in pieces. Like a dream it all came together. My spiritual take away was: Dia de Muertos has a spiritual component of overcoming the experiences of death, and dancing with the cycle of death, for a few days.  It reminded me that I had loss in my life this year that felt like a death. I’ll say that aloud. Tell it like it is. Feel the healing of saying things aloud. Then, don’t be scared because the little babies, see they are now turning into Angelitos (little angels). Then come together with others. Warm up. Be beautiful. Be aware you are made of bones. Your bones are strong.  In fact, you are more than your flesh and bones. You have a soul. In fact, you will live on with the angels too one day, with your whole family.  (Did I get that right? That is how my thoughts flowed.)

So I took a bus downtown with my Dad as the sun set, to go to the Dia de Muertos parade in downtown Mazatlan on November 1st. We arrived as the old town square was filling with people. Lots of girls and women were dressed as Catrinas. Three decorated beer trucks were preparing to give out free beer to anyone joining the parade. We walked the narrow cobblestone streets and found front row seats for the parade.

skeletons eating dinner

the skeletons eating dinner

I WAS BLOWN AWAY  with the spirit, sights and sounds that night. It was the most humble, but spirited parade I’d ever seen. It was made with art scraps! The meager floats were just open bed pickup trucks, decorated with paper flowers and Papier-maché globes on top. But the crowd, oh the crowd… you can never assemble a finer crowd. They strolled in their fine skeleton costumes around the streets, and took pictures of one another. In fact, some skeletons ate dinner right across from me, patting their bony mouths once in a while with their white hankies…. skeletons watching skeletons, skeletons everywhere!  And many people came just as themselves. Many beautiful people walked around, in couples or with their families, just walking with the parade or watching it besides us.

I did a little spiritual inventory myself.  I too can feel some death in my life this year. Someone nearly died. One day I’ll be able to let loose with my bad memories and laugh at them, because they’ll no longer scare me.

Dia de Muertos, Mazatlan, 2016

the fanciest Catrina in the parade

Not but not least, at the end of the day, I can call myself here a Catrina from the north. Not just a touristo.  I am just putting the pieces together now on what that means … but that is a whole other story, that shall have to wait another day!

2 thoughts on “Celebrating the Day of the Dead

  1. How lucky you were to have experienced this! Now you’ll be inspired to attend our local celebrations each year — on a much less grand scale, of course. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos!

  2. Thanks for your comments Phoebe for telling me the holiday is also in California and local…though being in Mazatlan, Mexico made it extra special! I now see how lots of our California artists blend in Mexican ideas and Mexican colors to their art. I now understand better local artists who paint bones and a Tree of Life.

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