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Dia de los Muertos celebrations around DF

Some of the seasonal candied fruit/veg here in Mexico... I was not bold enough to eat a whole pumpkin

Some of the seasonal candied fruit/veg here in Mexico... I was not bold enough to eat a whole pumpkin

As many of my fellow bloggers have discussed, this is one of the best times of year to be in Mexico City– during the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Preparation for this fascinating holiday begins during the last week or two of October, with activities reaching their peak on November 1 & 2. Wikipedia offers a decent general overview of the history, but in a nutshell, it is a time to remember & honor deceased friends and family. Visually this takes the form of ofrendas (offerings, or altars) in people’s homes & on display in many public venues as well.

One of the traditional images of Catrina, the classic skeletal, elegant female associated with Dia de los Muertos in Mexico

One of the traditional images of Catrina, the classic skeletal, elegant female associated with Dia de los Muertos in Mexico. (here depicted with flower petals, salt, dirt, etc.)

These altars are beautifully decorated with flowers, petals, other brightly colored elements that form designs, sugar skulls, the favorite food/drink of the deceased, etc. Additionally, market vendors are in full force selling Dia de los Muertos-related decor & food, particularly Pan de Muerto (a.k.a. “dead bread”, a tasty sugared bun or loaf w/a light orange taste to it). We didn’t make any major treks out of the area to the most popular venues for celebrating this holiday (i.e. Patzcuaro in Michoacan and Mixquic just southeast of DF). However, we did manage visits to Mercado Jamaica, Coyoacan (incl. the Frida Kahlo Museum & Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares- thanks to Ruth for the recommendation!), and the Edgar Allen Poe-themed ofrendas on display at UNAM.

A few photos of all the action below!

I bought several of these "papel picados" (cut paper) in various colors with a variety of fun, friendly skeleton themes...

I bought several of these "papel picados" (cut paper) at Mercado Jamaica in various colors with a variety of fun, friendly skeleton themes...

These were just a few of the calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) for sale at Jamaica. The chocolate ones looked good enough to eat...

These were just a few of the calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls) for sale at Jamaica. The chocolate ones looked good enough to eat...

My favorite little white flower dogs from my last visit to Mercado Jamaica were now decked out in their festive Halloween best.

My favorite little white flower dogs from my last visit to Mercado Jamaica were now decked out in their festive Halloween best.

Next, off to Coyoacan… On Saturday, activities were still underway to finish assembling the ofrendas, so it was interesting to see the creation process in action.

We first stopped at the Frida Kahlo museum, aka her "Casa Azul" near the heart of Coyoacan. Despite not being a Frida history expert, I must say the museum was quite interesting & really well done... Seeing her house & gardens and getting a few snippets of her life w/Diego Rivera was time well spent.

We first stopped at the Frida Kahlo museum, aka her "Casa Azul" near the heart of Coyoacan. Despite not being a Frida history expert, I must say the museum was quite interesting & really well done... Seeing her house & gardens and getting a few snippets of her life w/Diego Rivera was time well spent.

Here's Diego del Muerto at the ofrenda in the garden of the Kahlo museum

Here's Diego del Muerto at the ofrenda in the garden of the Kahlo museum

...and another one of the folks hanging out at Frida's place...

...and another one of the folks hanging out at Frida's place...

Next, we wandered through Hidalgo Square where a number of ofrendas were in progress…

We saw this intricate design being filled in with copious amounts of table salt...

We saw this intricate design being filled in with copious amounts of table salt...

Ironically, many flowers died to create the amazing images for this holiday... particularly marigolds and cockscombs...

Ironically, many flowers died to create the amazing images for this holiday... particularly marigolds and cockscombs...

This ofrenda won points in my mind for its subversive, "government sucks" messaging

This ofrenda won points in my mind for its subversive, "government sucks" messaging

The fountain in the nearby Centenario Garden was taken over with this gorgeous display

The fountain in the nearby Centenario Garden was taken over with this gorgeous display

Next, onto the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, entrance shown above. Entry was free on Saturday, but normally it is a mere 11 pesos and they had an interesting exhibition about sugar that could still be worth a peek post-holiday.

Next, onto the Museo Nacional de Culturas Populares, entrance shown above. Entry was free this Saturday, but normally it is a mere 11 pesos and they had an interesting exhibition about sugar that could still be worth a peek post-holiday. Here's John bonding w/his mother-in-law. :)

Inside the museum, they had some excellent vendors selling Dia de los Muertos food & crafts. We were particularly impressed by this table of Catrinas.

Inside the museum, they had some excellent vendors selling Dia de los Muertos food & crafts. We were particularly impressed by this table of Catrinas.

In fact, we liked them enough that we made purchased two new little friends (for a grand total of $460 pesos, which seemed reasonable despite our lack of calavera-price-benchmarking)! I have to say, it is fascinating how the more you see things as a normal part of culture, the more they grow on you... If you had told me before we moved down here that I would someday purchase an 18-tall well-dressed skeleton woman + a fat cowboy skeleton with a dead rooster at his feet, I wouldn't have believed you for a minute. :)

In fact, we liked them enough that we made purchased two new little friends (for a grand total of $460 pesos, which seemed reasonable despite our lack of calavera-price-benchmarking)! I have to say, it is fascinating how the more you see things as a normal part of culture, the more they grow on you... If you had told me before we moved down here that I would someday purchase an 18-inch-tall trendily-dressed skeleton woman + a fat cowboy skeleton with a dead rooster at his feet, I wouldn't have believed you for a minute. :)

 

One of the hot controversies in Coyoacan is that after they remodeled the main square, they kicked all the street vendors out & relocated them to the Frida Kahlo Garden, a few blocks southeast of the square. The vendors are displeased, but I will say they are in a lovely area--especially when the main fountain is covered in flower petals.

One of the hot controversies in Coyoacan is that after they remodeled the main square, they kicked all the street vendors out & relocated them to the Frida Kahlo Garden, a few blocks southeast of the square. The vendors are displeased, but I will say they are in a lovely area--especially when the main fountain is covered in flower petals.

The wee skeleton figurines are always good for a laugh-- my mom purchased one of the dog+vet options that was the spitting image of our Jack Russell terrier Dave back in Nebraska. Note the pile of cheery horse-drawn hearses in the back...

The wee skeleton figurines are always good for a laugh-- my mom purchased one of the dog+vet options that was the spitting image of our Jack Russell terrier Dave back in Nebraska. Note the pile of cheery horse-drawn hearses in the back... (From the main mercado in Coyoacan)

Also inside the Mercado Coyoacan, we visited the Tostadas Coyoacan stall for a late morning snack. My mom's guide book informed us this is *the* original spot & not to be fooled by the mimics nearby. I can vouch--both the drinks & seafood here were AMAZING. I recommend an agua de sandia (watermelon) and a tostada de camaron (shrimp). Look at those piles of seafood, people!!

Also inside the Mercado Coyoacan, we visited the Tostadas Coyoacan stall for a late morning snack. My mom's guide book informed us this is *the* original spot & not to be fooled by the mimics nearby. I can vouch--both the drinks & seafood here were AMAZING. I recommend an agua de sandia (watermelon) and a tostada de camaron (shrimp). Look at those piles of seafood, people!!

My mom headed back for Nebraska yesterday, and then today John & I drove down to check out UNAM (the largest university in the Americas) & the ofrendas in homage to Edgar Allen Poe set up outside near the library. We gave these the verdict of “amusing, but we’ve seen better”.  Here are a couple of the more interesting ones, however…

A massive book display in the spirit of "The Black Cat"....

A massive book display in the spirit of "The Black Cat"....

I should know my Poe stories better... Anybody know the story where someone is cut in half or loses a head via an improvised guillotine?

I should know my Poe stories better... Anybody know the story where someone is cut in half or loses a head via an improvised guillotine?

One of the popular themes was a cemetary with headstones citing each of Poe's best known works. We were able to quickly identify "The Tell-tale Heart" and "The Pit and the Pendulum"... Some gravestones seemed a bit redundant; not sure if the students got a bit lazy in their Poe research?

One of the popular themes was a cemetary with headstones citing each of Poe's best known works. We were able to quickly identify "The Tell-tale Heart" and "The Pit and the Pendulum"... Some gravestones seemed a bit redundant; not sure if the students got a bit lazy in their Poe research?

The Pumas are the UNAM soccer team; here, John brings life to a player's body...

The Pumas are the UNAM soccer team; here, John brings life to a player's body...

This is just a smattering of the Dia de los Muertos action here in Mexico City, and as you can see, it’s a really interesting time to be here & learn more about one of the most important holidays in Mexico (second only to Dia de Guadalupe, we’re told!). Mark your calendars now for next year, people!! In closing, I’ll leave you with a decorating idea in case you have any blank walls in your house waiting for a theme…

This is a subtle interior design technique that I think will easily stretch both across the calendar year and across cultures... Any takers?? ;)

This is a subtle interior design technique that I think will easily stretch both across the calendar year and across cultures... Any takers?? ;)

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12 Comments on “Dia de los Muertos celebrations around DF”

  1. #1 Refried Dreamer
    on Nov 3rd, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Wow. Looks like you guys had a great time! Mexico City does a hell of a lot more than snobby ole Guadalajara! Next year we’ll flip a coin for either D.F or Patzcuaro! Thanks for posting these photos!

  2. #2 Irene
    on Nov 3rd, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Maybe the Edgar Allen Poe altar that looks like a guillotine is a reference to “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

  3. #3 Jesus Chairez
    on Nov 3rd, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    Loved the post and the pictures. GREAT.

  4. #4 WeVisitMexico
    on Nov 6th, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Julie, very nice post about the Day of the Dead celebrations. Great pictures!! Especially liked the Sugar Skulls pic.
    Thanks for posting your article on our Facebook page.

    WeVisitMexico

    http://facebook.com/WeVisitMexico
    http://twitter.com/wevisitmexico
    http://www.youtube.com/wevisitmexico
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/wevisitmexico

  5. #5 Carolina
    on Nov 6th, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Love the pics although not very convinced about seeing so many skeletons in my birthday!, still shocking and for some reason feeling even older, jajjaja

  6. #6 Leah Flinn
    on Nov 11th, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Wow! Those pics are amazing – great post. I got the feeling that Veracruz does not celebrate the day as much as other areas, looks like I was right. But I still enjoyed it here :-)

  7. #7 Mexico Cooks!
    on Nov 16th, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Great post, thanks for the tour around the DF!

    Mexico Cooks! is devoting the whole month of November to articles (and lots of photos!) about the Day of the Dead in Michoacán. Start with November 7:
    http://mexicocooks.typepad.com/mexico_cooks/2009/11/day-of-the-dead-2009-in-p%C3%A1tzcuaro-michoac%C3%A1n.html
    and read forward. The article for Nov 14 is up now, and a new article will be up on Nov 21 and Nov 28.

    Have fun reading.

  8. #8 Remembering Mexico | The Brink of Something Else
    on May 14th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    [...] Guanajuato during Cervantino.  Pushing and shoving my way through a cemetery so jam-packed during día de los muertos it resembled my favourite club on a Saturday night.  Entering the beautifully blue world of Frida [...]

  9. #9 veronica
    on Oct 7th, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    WOW! Great photos & info! “Especially a well-spent vacation in Mexico!”"Thanks!” I’m leaving to Cancun on 10/23/10. Wish me a great time…..because I sure need one! ;-D

  10. #10 Joseph ortiz
    on Nov 13th, 2010 at 11:39 am

    Wooww I love those pic and the culture of Mexico they r so mistic and colorfull and everything that they do even the food and all states the r different and delicious !!!!!

  11. #11 Dia de los Muertos: homemade sugar skulls & an ofrenda for Marcia – Midwesterner in Mexico
    on Oct 23rd, 2012 at 11:57 am

    [...] celebrated it.  I shared several photos from one year’s festivities around Mexico City in this post, and I’ve definitely missed all the rituals the last two years back here in the US. My mom [...]

  12. #12 Graham Bradley
    on Sep 26th, 2014 at 1:37 am

    I think the Poe story you seek is “The Pit and the Pendulum”.

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