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As a bit of history,
Day of the
Dead traditions appear rooted in pre-Hispanic beliefs that the spirits
of the dead
went neither to a heaven or hell, but wandered for years before entering Mictlan, the "Land of the Dead".
Exact traditions and celebrations vary throughout Mexico due to its sixty or so indigenous groups. In some areas
the relatives of the deceased burn incense over the altars, while in other communities people light
bonfires in their house doorways to guide the dead home.
Some Mexicans have all night vigils while others arrange an afternoon meal
at the gravesides of their departed loved ones, friends and relatives.
These gatherings are often festive and solemn by turn.
The Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico also combines the Spanish catholicism of All Saints and All Souls Days
with the symbols and mythology of the earlier pagan and more ancient indigenous traditions
(much like the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe celebration combines catholic and pagan influences).
Day of the Dead altar to renowned Mexican poet, writer and intellectual Octavio Paz
(1914-1998) who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.
Day of the Dead altar in Puerto Vallarta October 31, 2010
Notice the Catrina (female skeletal figure representing death), the many skulls, often made out of sugar,
and of course the ubiquitous candles - as Day of the Dead traditions would have it, to help light the way back to
their ancestral homes on Earth, and for their return to the "Land of the Dead"
Orange marigolds are popularly believed to attract the souls of the departed for Dia de los Muertos
La Catrina (middle) has become the referential image of Death in Mexico, where it is common to see her
embodied as part of the celebrations of Day of the Dead throughout the country.
Here we see La katrina standing at the local restaurant Langostino's on Halloween night 2013
Commemorating Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor at a restaurant along
the Cuale River near their former residences in Gringo Gulch, November 2015
Day of the Dead altar to Puerto Vallarta resident and champion boxer Marco Antonio Nazareth, 23,
who died July 22, 2009 from brain injuries suffered in a boxing match several days earlier
This is quite a full, fine example of an altar: with many candles, offerings of the deceased's favorite foods
and drinks, the Catrina and skeleton, Day of the Dead bread, personal artifacts and memorabilia,
handwritten cards with prayers, poems or words about the person being honored,
and orange as the dominant color to welcome home the spirit of the departed.
Mexico Dia de Los Muertos commemorating a member of DIF
from the local Vallarta Institute of Culture - notice the skulls,
the marigolds, the string of bones, and an unusual jaguar mask.
Altar to children and youngsters of low income who have died of cancer in town and were
assisted by the Puerto Vallarta charity Canica (Support Center for Children with Cancer) & the Women's Association of Vallarta.
While taking this photo and admiring the altar I met and talked to the mother of one of the
boys in the main photo area, "almost 7 years old", who had died 2 years ago.
This is the only Day of the Dead altar I've noted specifically for children - see how it is loaded with toys.
This colorful one has just about every traditional item in the altar from
the skeleton/catrina to the orange marigold flowers and candles.
A colorful Day of the Dead altar on the Cuale River island, with ancient traditional motifs and patterns.
This is one of my favorite commemorative altars because of the bright colors and large centerpiece.
The main town cemetery El Panteon in the 5 de diciembre colonia/neighborhood
is the site of many observances during this day and night, but compared to more traditional
parts of Mexico like Pátzcuaro in Michoacan or the state of Morelos, festivities in Vallarta are rather sedate.
Puerto Vallarta Day of the Dead celebration at the municipal flea market November 2011
Altar at downtown city hall in November 2012 to Carlos Fuentes Macias (Nov 11, 1928-May 15, 2012)
who was an internationally acclaimed Mexican short story writer, novelist, essayist and screenwriter.
He received numerous awards in his lifetime including the Mexican National Prize for Arts and Sciences,
the UNESCO Pablo Picasso medal, and the National Order of Merit of France
at Cuates y Cuetes restaurant-bar on Los Muertos beach November 1, 2012
At one of the downtown City Hall altars on November 1, 2013 dedicated to
Clairita Yetter from France, who lived more than 35 years in the city and was known
for her "wonderful cooking and artistic style"
The sugar skulls are the allusion to death which is always present
Las calaveras de azucar son la alusion a la muerte siempre presente
This altar was made in memory of doctor David Lawrence Rhodes
Photo on November 2, 2015
"If my voice silences with death, my heart will continue talking to you."
Photos & Info
"Tears make the road back to heaven slippery." - Saying
"It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees." - revolutionary Emiliano Zapata
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