Dancing in the Day of the Dead, 2022. It means something totally different than what you may have expected.
It’s not just a parade. The celebration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico City is a transformative experience.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared this same celebration a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. It’s a tradition, the main objective of which is the remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. It’s to keep their souls alive.
With origins in ancient cultures, Day of the Dead is a fusion between Spanish and indigenous customs. It’s become an iconic tradition that today crosses generations and transcends borders, even creating new cultures through music, color, art, joy, and mystery.
To Mexican people, the Day of the Dead represents a celebration of memory and ritual that privileges remembrance over oblivion. People watching from afar may think that tradition in a giant urban center like Mexico City is not so deeply rooted as in smaller places further afield.
But in the small towns within Mexico City many elements of Day of the Dead celebrations are still linked to practices and beliefs of ancient Mesoamerican cultures. This is especially true of home-based offerings to the souls of the deceased.
These “altars” combine multiple parts. One is simply the food that’s considered the center of any celebration. It’s served to entertain the souls of deceased relatives who’ve come to visit. But another part is the work that goes into preparing the food. Recognition is given, but so is love and respect. In the Mesoamerican tradition, an offering of work is the best way to bestow love.
The Mexico City Day of the Dead Festival recovers and brings together the best of traditions of the 32 Mexican states. These are combined with an overarching and justifiable vision of the Mexican peoples roots and history. It’s a celebration. But it’s also an expression of resistance and a way of resignifying an indigenous cosmological vision. It’s a transitory return of the souls of the dead, and the souls of our cultures, so that they won’t suffer that worst of all deaths: oblivion.
The traditional Mexico City parade stars mostly the Catrinas. The character gained strength when muralist Diego Rivera painted them into his “Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central.” Thus, the Cultural Capital of the Americas celebrates its culinary and artistic richness with full tradition and meaning.
If you’re planning on attending, stick around for tips on health and safety, eating well and even really well, and the best places to see and experience everything happening in Mexico City, the City that has it All.