Well, that’s not to say that I was locked up before but having spent the last 18 or so months in London, it was starting to wear on me. I had dreamt of solo travelling to Mexico and South America since I returned home from India/Sri Lanka in 2019 but alas Covid put a halt to those plans - as with everyone else’s - so I grinned, I bared it, had a fabulous summer ’20 and then couldn’t stand the thought of another freezing winter in London and soooo off I left.
Arriving in Mexico City, with a one-way ticket, no plan other than the first week of accommodation and wanting to get involved in Día de los Muertos (Day Of The Dead) celebrations, I was finally on the road and loving it.
Fortunately, Day Of The Dead was everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s called “Day” but celebrations went on for 5 days, also taking Halloween into account and the actual day is the 2nd of November. It was a riotous affair of joy, remembrance, spirituality and a pinch of the macabre thrown in.
The first thing I noticed was the explosion of colour all over the street and the subsequent dopamine hit it gives you.
Death isn’t monotone here, it is the rainbow!
It is joy and celebration. Exactly what I had always envisaged my funeral would be; a cocktail of colour and celebration of the rich life I lived 😝.
On the actual day, I took a solo stroll to Zocola (the city centre), which was bursting with entertainers, a stage with musicians performing, an array of the most stunning and thoughtful altars I have ever seen - which quite literally moved me to tears - sugar skull art pieces and these absolutely stunning and intricate “carpet” artwork pieces made solely from sand, dyed sawdust, seeds and petals, which are traditionally created to greet a religious procession that walks over them.
The decorated altars are called Ofrendas, often including orange Mexican marigolds fondly named Flowers of the dead and are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. It is also believed the bright petals with a strong scent can guide the souls from cemeteries to their family homes. The altars are also filled with the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, which had me thinking that mine would be filled with sweets, corn on the cob, fruits, red wine and tequila!
Honestly, I have never seen such extravagant and thoughtfully constructed altars in my entire life. The sheer complexity, along with the obvious time and dedication that went into creating them, coupled with the energy surrounding it all made for a recipe that resulted in me suddenly being overwhelmed with emotion and crying alone in the middle of the square. At that moment with all of those people around me, I felt closer to my dearly departed than I have felt in a long time. They were right there with me and I felt safe and protected. I actually went and sat right in the middle of the intersection of the whole thing and just absorbed all the energies. It was a truly magical personal moment and I gave absolutely zero f*cks to the hundreds of people who were there.
The skull is a huge part of the festivities symbolism here and there are all sorts of interpretations of them all around the city, in all sizes and colours. Having only very recently appreciated and fallen in love with the true meaning of - which is that of death and rebirth - rather than the demonised version of the skull - which is generally of death and evil - I felt a calming affinity to them all and delighted in seeing all the iterations.
How the skull is decorated reflects the wants, desires, and likes of the deceased family member. Having recently lost another family member and missing his funeral being here, I felt a massive pull to want to honour the afterlife and feel like my deceased aunties and uncles are indeed still with me and boy did I feel it!
Aside from the skulls, the other thing that struck me as significant was all the candles. The candle game here is literally on Fuego (hello rudimentary Spanish) and I am in LOVE with it!!
The sheer beauty of all of the styles of candles and the grandiose of the styles all lit up, had me feeling like I am literally in heaven. White candles are the most commonly used, I assume as it is a one-stop shop for all meanings. As you know from the ritual box offerings, I have a special affinity with candle magic and the transformational spirit of fire. Seeing that ritual honoured on such a grand scale was nothing short of amazing.
All in all, I had the most moving and remarkable experience for Dia Des Muertas and can not wait to come back and experience it again next year. I was hoping to be able to witness a graveside candle ceremony but annoyingly couldn’t seem to find a grave holding one. All queries prompted a slightly horrified retort of - are you a witch?! To which I proudly replied yes 😎.
Until next year Día de los Muertos!
Sending love, as always