The Day of the Dead, in Spanish “Día de Muertos”, is a tradition that has characterized Mexico for many years now, even though it is celebrated in other parts of Latin America, and even other places with a Latino population, such as Los Angeles, California. To the indigenous people of Mexico, death was considered to be the passage into a new life, therefore, their dead were buried with many of their personal belongings, which they would need in this new life. The Day of the Dead, celebrated on November the first and November the second of each year, is a very special ritual, since it is the day in which the living remember those who have departed already. On November the first, also known as “Día de los Angelitos” is when the children that have passed are remembered, while November the second, is the day adults are remembered. Both dates are equally important for the people who celebrate this holiday. Day of the Dead is a mixture between Aztec rituals and Catholicism, brought by Spaniards, which is the reason this two dates coincide with the Roman Catholic All Saint’s Day (November 1st) and All Soul’s Day (November 2nd). These are the days when art, religion, life, death, sadness and humor all come together in bright colors, tears and music.
Most people who are not from Mexico, think the Day of the Dead is a day full of sadness, freight, and other horrible feelings. It is not; Day of the Dead is a beautiful ritual that is performed happily and lovingly, to remember all the loved relatives and friends that are no longer with us, through festivals and lively celebrations. Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Day of the Dead celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. On Day of the Dead, the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones.
Puerto Vallarta is one of the most important tourist destinations not only in the Pacific region but also in the country; because of its 120 mile stretch of coastline, stunning beach landscapes and rich ecosystem, Puerto Vallarta is considered a perfect spot for family vacations, honeymoons, or even business trips. But, if you want to get to know a different side of Puerto Vallarta besides its beautiful landscapes, it is highly suggested to visit it the first days of November, as to enjoy the celebrations of Day of the Dead.
One of the ways Mexicans have to celebrate the Day of the Dead, is building altars to commemorate the person who has departed; the altars are full of colors, pictures, food and drink the person liked in life, among many other things, like tequila, jokes, funny pictures, making the altars truly worth seeing. Puerto Vallarta, like every other town in Mexico, celebrates this special holiday beautifully, including the building of altars. The city usually sets aside an area for people to create altars for their loved ones. In this way, it is believed that the souls of the dead will return to Earth and enjoy the things they used to when they were alive. You can find many of these through the Main Plaza, between the church and the Malecon.
Although Day of the Dead is usually a private holiday celebrated among family members, for example, Cemetery in the 5th of December Colonia is the site of traditional Day of the Dead observance for private celebrations, it is also a celebration of the whole town, and therefore Asociación Vallarta Centro prepares an Annual Día de Los Muertos Festival, a celebration that promises to be magnificent. This celebration includes the display of conventional altars and Catrinas, pan de muerto tastings (a sweetened soft bread, often decorated with bone-like pieces, that’s traditionally baked during the days leading up to El Día de los Muertos), and other traditional Day of the Dead activities. It also includes folklore dancing dedicated to the dead, a parade, singing, dancing, Mariachi music, and a firework display. All in all, besides enjoying the natural beauty of Puerto Vallarta, it’s beach, sun, water activities, and tourist attractions, you will also be able to enjoy its cultural side through the famous Day of the Dead, one of the most important celebrations in the whole of Mexico.
Another way to celebrate the Day of the Dead is by writing poems about funny habits or stories of the dead, or even to make fun of La Catrina, a rich old lady skull created by famous Mexican cartoon illustrator and lithographer Jose Guadalupe Posada, which reminds the public that, no matter how much money you have, death is something that makes everyone equal. The Catrina has been a representative of the Day of the Day for many years, and you can find statues of it all over town, even outside the timeframe of the end of October. Most Catrinas are skeletons fancily dressed up.
Preparations for this holiday start in the third week of October with the harvesting of the cempasuchitl, marigold flower, also known as the flower of the 20 petals or the flower of the dead. The reason this is the official flower used to honor the dead is because color yellow is akin to the sun and represents life and hope. It is used in both, altars and graveyards.
Now you know! If planning in visiting Vallarta in October make sure to arrive on these days to experience a side of Mexico you had heard of but never expected to see!
Another tradition for this holiday are the Edible Skulls (Calaveras de azúcar), which are a symbol of death and afterlife, and are often used to decorate altars. They are also given as gifts on this holiday, especially to kids.