One of the main reasons for choosing the date for my trip to Mexico was so that I could be able to experience first hand all of the traditional customs of "Dia de Los Muertos" or Day of the Dead. Held during the first couple of days in November, this big holiday is celebrated all throughout Mexico and Latin American, remembering the loved ones who have passed and celebrating them with various festivals and activities. It is believed that on this day, the spirits are awakened from their eternal sleep and are allowed to return with their loved ones for the festivities.
To many, this might seem like just another variation of Halloween, since skulls and skeletons are in abundance. However, death is something more than something that is feared and frightening, but as something that is celebrated, bringing together communities and families alike. Steming from Aztec culture and Catholisism, "Dia de los Muertos" was established from the belief that the dead would be insulted by the mourning and sadness of the living. Because of this, they are instead celebrated with traditional foods, drinks, parties, festivals, and remembrance gatherings at their graves. Ofrendas or offerings are set up in honor of those lost, which are all adorned with the traditional "cempasuchitl" flowers or marigolds. These flowers bloom right in time for the holiday and adorn the altars and graves of the deceased. They are believed to be used for their strong smell, which attracts the spirits who return from the other world.
Many altars and ofrendas are set up throughout the cities; homes, universities, workplaces, and communities. One of the brightest and biggest of the Toluca area can be found in Metepec, a suburb, known for it's it's award winning artesanal pottery art. A huge (and I mean HUGE!) ofrenda is set up on the hill where the church rests, where colorful designs are constructed and filled in with various fruits and flowers. Pottery art is in no shortage here, where many potters bring skeleton "catrinas" and skulls made out of "barro". The entire community comes together to build this altar which can take up to several hours (& even days) of labor. It is really an amazing sight to see everyone working hard, hand in hand to build something in honor of those they love.
I had the privilege of visiting this amazing set up the Wednesday before the Saturday celebrations, so people were still hard at work bringing everything together. Even though I did not see the finished product, seeing the love and labor that goes into creating such an amazing sight was really worth it. I hope that with these images, I can bring to you some of the culture that I so much adore from the country I am so proud to call my own.