Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende

It’s been over two weeks since the Day of the Dead festivities took place, but even though late, I think it’s still worth posting anyway.

Despite it’s name, Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead is a two days holiday celebrated throughout Mexico on November  1st and 2nd. Related to globally renowned Catholic religious holidays of  All Saints and All Souls, in Mexico it is also a National Holiday. Unlike the USA, where the tradition is almost non-existent (not to confuse with Halloween) or Poland where the events are very serious, mournful and dark, in Mexico the celebrations are very cheerful and vivid. Even though adopted by Christians, the tradition actually dates back to the indigenous cultures, and in particular to the ancient Aztec rituals and festivals dedicated to the goddess called Mictecacihuatl. Like in Poland, people go to cemeteries to commemorate the dead, but that’s about all in terms of similarities. Day of the Dead in Mexico is a joyful holiday. People use food, fruits, memorabilia and tons of colorful paper to build offering altars, not only for their loved ones, but also for well known celebrities and public figures. Only the deceased ones, of course.

Indians dancing around a fountain in a small square in San Rafael district of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
Indians dancing around a fountain in a small square in San Rafael district of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
Mariachis playing in the courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Mariachis playing in the courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:10, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 70.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 800
Altar of a local patron in a courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Altar of a local patron in a courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 28.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
Paintings made by children in Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Paintings made by children in Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 9.5, 28.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
Courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico adorned for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). On that day, author Robert de Gast was also signing his books at the library.
Courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico adorned for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). On that day, author Robert de Gast was also signing his books at the library.30-Oct-2011 12:11, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Local children with their mothers are looking at an altar dedicated to a local patron on a courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In the background, a group of tourists waiting for a tour of local properties is observing the scene. In the front, few kids are painting pictures.
Local children with their mothers are looking at an altar dedicated to a local patron on a courtyard of a Public Library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In the background, a group of tourists waiting for a tour of local properties is observing the scene. In the front, few kids are painting pictures.30-Oct-2011 12:13, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 45.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
Alex making a donation to a band of mariachis singing and playing in the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Alex making a donation to a band of mariachis singing and playing in the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:14, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 70.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
Agnieszka and the kids listening to the band of mariachis singing and playing in the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Agnieszka and the kids listening to the band of mariachis singing and playing in the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:14, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.022 sec, ISO 400
Agnieszka and the kids watching local boys working on their paintings on the Day of the Dead. A group of tourists listening to mariachis on the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Agnieszka and the kids watching local boys working on their paintings on the Day of the Dead. A group of tourists listening to mariachis on the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
 
Agnieszka and the kids watching local boys working on their paintings on the Day of the Dead. A group of tourists listening to mariachis on the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Agnieszka and the kids watching local boys working on their paintings on the Day of the Dead. A group of tourists listening to mariachis on the courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:15, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 3.8, 28.0mm, 0.033 sec, ISO 200
Alex looking at the details of a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) altar build in public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Well, I guess he's also picking his nose...
Alex looking at the details of a Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) altar build in public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Well, I guess he's also picking his nose...30-Oct-2011 12:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
Agnieszka admiring an altar of a local patron in a courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). In front, an exposition of children paintings and kids working on their art. In the back a group of tourists listens to a group of mariachis while waiting for their tour of local properties.
Agnieszka admiring an altar of a local patron in a courtyard of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos). In front, an exposition of children paintings and kids working on their art. In the back a group of tourists listens to a group of mariachis while waiting for their tour of local properties.30-Oct-2011 12:16, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 200
 
Nadia and Alex watching local boys work on their art pieces. In the back of the courtyard, a group of tourists watch a group of mariachis sing and play during the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia and Alex watching local boys work on their art pieces. In the back of the courtyard, a group of tourists watch a group of mariachis sing and play during the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 4.0, 28.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 200
A small cemetary, where most deceased were patrons of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
A small cemetary, where most deceased were patrons of a public library in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:25, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 85.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
Candle smoke on an altar of a local patron of a public library. In background, Nadia watching kids  work on their paintings on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Candle smoke on an altar of a local patron of a public library. In background, Nadia watching kids work on their paintings on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:54, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 800
 
Nadia watching kids  work on their paintings on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
Nadia watching kids work on their paintings on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 12:54, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 400
An electrician preparing power distribution board for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
An electrician preparing power distribution board for the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.30-Oct-2011 13:13, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 135.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
Decorations hanging from a balcony on one of the streets of San Miguel de ALlende, Mexico during teh Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations.
Decorations hanging from a balcony on one of the streets of San Miguel de ALlende, Mexico during teh Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) celebrations.30-Oct-2011 13:29, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 800
 

Since we’ve arrived in San Miguel three days before the holiday, we had an opportunity to see not only the parades on the day of the holiday, but also to witness all preparations. As already mentioned above, the most distinct feature of the day are altars. While walking around town, we’ve came across many altars dedicated to local patrons, saints, but we’ve also spotted a few build for John Paul II and… Steve Jobs.

Technically speaking, the term Dia de los Muertos or Dia de los Difuntos (both mean the Day of the Dead) is only applicable to November 2nd, as this is the day to commemorate deceased adults. It sounds a little creepy, but the first of November is solely dedicated to children and therefore called Dia de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels). The adults get bottles of tequila, the children get toys and favorite candies on their altars and on their graves. Sugar skulls and Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) are easily available everywhere around town.

In different parts of San Miguel de Allende there were many festivities, most of them unannounced and rather spontaneous. As an example, on Sunday, the day before Dia de los Angelitos, we were touring the Centro. We have spent an entire afternoon walking around the aged downtown, admiring beautiful buildings, churches, museums and restaurants. Finally, when we got tired of these tourist attractions, we returned home. Entering our Colonia (district of town or neighborhood) we’ve spotted people dancing in front of a bone stone church in a very poor neighborhood. From a distance it looked like a wedding ceremony, but when we got closer we realized that something was off.

First it was the music. Even though I really don’t speak Spanish, I quickly figured the meaning of “Me gusta Marijuana”, repeated in a chorus over and over to the distinct rhythm of  drums in a folk song played by local superstars. Then, there were the dancers. Men and women dancing, or rather moving rhythmically in a large circle on the top of the hill were wearing all kinds of silly, scary and plain creepy costumes. There were rock stars, skeletons, old farts and all kinds of other disguises. The scene was rather surreal, but since we were really on our last legs, we decided to call it a day.

When we turned a corner, there was another surprise. A group of men, dressed in some sort of traditional Indian costumes was dancing to the rhythm of their large drums around a small fountain in a little square adjacent to the poor church…

The most amazing was that there were no tourist around…!