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Malecón de Mazatlán
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Why We Celebrate the Day of the Dead

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Your Official Travel Guide of Things to do in Mazatlan.

Why We Celebrate the Day of the Dead

Sophia Boccard

Day of the Dead, as we know it today, has been a tradition in Mexico since the 1960s when the Mexican government turned it into a national holiday. It was originally an indigenous observance dating back hundreds of years to an Aztec festival dedicated to the Queen of Mictlan, goddess Mictecacihuatl, of the underworld.  It was – and still is – a celebration where families come together to pay tribute to their loved ones. There’s a special significance in remembering loved ones, as it is believed that on the Day of the Dead, the souls of individuals descend from beyond the grave to cohabitate with the living.

© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

© Tomas Castelazo, www.tomascastelazo.com / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

The homage is generally a very colorful and vibrant alter, keeping up with the traditions of ancient celebrations where pantheons were cleaned and painted to represent loved ones. The decoration of the alters is peculiar, as it is customary to put a picture of the deceased surrounded by offerings pertaining to their favorite foods and drinks, their personal items, and water and traditional Day of the Dead bread. The decor is completed by marigold flowers and candles, which are used to help the deceased find their way to their place.

photo credit: Catrinas via photopin (license)

photo credit: Catrinas via photopin (license)

For some families, the celebration begins on November 1, as they spend the night in the cemetary dining and honoring their loved ones until dawn. Generally, less traditional families will honor their loved ones on November 2 and shower them with flowers, music, food and any other ítems that the deceased used to enjoy.

Mexicans in general do not fear death, and true to their customs, often make fun of it. An example of how they perceive death is to paint their faces as a calaverita, the message being that someday death will take them.

dia de los muertos

In Mazatlan, we have a tradition called the callejoneada. The tour begins in the Plazuela Machado and consists of visiting various attractions within the historic center, from the House of Culture to the Angela Peralta Theater. Several alters are on display, a donkey pulls a cart filled with beer kegs that are given away, and music blasts as people dance in the streets.