Día de muertos. Day of the dead. Mexico.


“Anglos” have Halloween on October 31st. The French go to the “Sematary” on November first. La Toussaint. All saints’ day. A bit of a confusion there. Mexico celebrates “El día de muertos”, the Day of the Dead, as befits, on November 2nd. It is a deeply rooted tradition in Mexico, combining pre-hispanic traditions with Catholicism. The above pictures was taken a couple of years back in Alvaro Obregón Avenue in Mexico city. Note the cut-out paper. The skulls, “calaveritas”. Many still put a similar altar in their home. with pictures of the dearly departed and sugar skulls with the names of the living. I once had one given to me with my name on on it. 🙂


I understand the Chinese had, or still have a tradition dating back to as early as the 6th century AD. of honouring their dead for a whole month with paper lanterns and celebrations. Considering that the native population of the Americas came from Asia betwee 27,000 and 12,000 BC, I wonder how old the tradition is? The photo above is in Alvaro Obregón again. The orange flowers are cempasúchil, or cempaxóchitl. A carnation-like flower that blooms around those days, traditionally associated with the dead. The paper bags hold candles to be lit at night.


Death is ever present in Mexico. (And no, I will not comment on recent events). It is hidden, swept away in France. As if one could get away with Death! Mexicans recognize it is inevitable, but one can have fun with it. The skull above is decorated with condoms. The medicines are Tylenol. Apt for hangovers this particular dead might have been prone to.


A few years ago, we went to San Juan del Río, a small town in the state of Queretaro. It was the night of November first. around ten at night. As we left the restaurant to walk back to our hotel, we met a flood of people walking down the street in silence and hushed whispers. Got caught in the stream. Followed to the “Samatary”. All tombs had been cleaned up. Sweeped. Decorated with cut-out paper, garlands, orange flowers. Pretty much as the altars and Make-up tombs above. Candles were lit everywhere. The dead’s favourite foods and drinks had been placed on the tombstones. Relatives were chatting happily. Some of the dead’s favourite music and songs could be heard everywhere. Party! 🙂


Alvaro Obregón Avenue again. Note all the orange flowers. Cempaxutcli, or whatever! Even my mexican friends disagree how to spell the thing! This particular avenue in Mexico has a lot of copies of famous statues. That one is the Borghese Gladiator. Original is probably in Florence. Sorry. Take that back. Just Boogled it. The original is a hellenistic copy currently at the Louvre. (Darn! Missed it this summer!) Like the contrast between the statue and the flowers! 🙂


Skull on a table. Bizarro Café. Mexico city. Moved my beer (Negra Modelo) away for the picture. Cheers!


Evacuation route. (See the green sign) Bizarro Café again. Skulls are (too?) real.


La Santa Muerte, the Holy Death, painted on the back of a lorry. The Church of the Holy Death is a registered church. (With many issues…)


Back to Alvaro Obregón. Typical decoration similar to the altar one might build in one’s house, or at the graveyard.


The fruits – oranges, sugar cane – displayed, are offerings to the dead.


Detail from a previous picture.

Going back to San Juan del Río, the small town I mentioned earlier. The family spends the night or most of it by the tombs. Reminiscing. Laughing or crying. sometimes singing. Sharing memories. Then at one point during the night, a whiff of air signals that the dead have come by, tasted the food and the liquor. It is now time for the living to eat and drink in honour of the Dead.


That is an alebrije. Not directly related to “Día de muertos” apart from the skeletons. Will go back to the Alebrije theme in another post. (Maybe)



A cross-shaped altar in Alvaro Obregón. Mexico city.

Text and pix (c) BMO. Feel free to reblog though!

In case you didn’t count there are thirteen pictures in this post!

Happy Halloween. Feliz Día de Muertos. Stop by the Cemetery if you can. I’m sure some of our dearly departed will appreciate. 🙂

31 thoughts on “Día de muertos. Day of the dead. Mexico.

  1. I’d love to experience this vibrant holiday one day. This spring I got to experience Memorial Easter in Moldova, which is their day to honor the dead. And tomorrow, like every year since I’ve lived in this part of Eastern Europe, I’ll go to the cemetery at dusk to marvel over the flickering candles and contemplate those who have passed. I know that France has Toussaint, but I didn’t know that they also go to the cemetery. They do tend to avoid the subject of death.

    • The French used to go to to the cemetery on Toussaint. But then I’ve been away for so long, maybe they don’t do it ‘nymore? Death is very much under the carpet now. Like every thing else! 😦
      Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  2. amazing photographs, huh? a little eerie though! We place candles/earthen lamps outside exits (doors or window) on our all soul’s night that falls as per Hindu date, the night before Dipawali/Kalipuja, in end october or november.

    We offer our homage to departed ancestors on Mahalaya, a day that falls a week before Durgapuja, well its date is usually in either september or october. On that day offerings are made to them and then those offerings are offered to rivers (preferably Ganges).

    • So all souls’ night falls roughly at the same time of year? interesting. Maha means great, big, large, what does “laya” mean? 🙂

      • no I dont think we can add those two together like that, I will have to dig and tell you what mahalaya means but if you split it like that Maha will mean great and Laya will mean rhythm (and most probably it also means time), but i dont think that fits in there. I will have to revert back! 🙂

        Maybe, it was Mayalaya-that is “The final moment” of Mahishasura! The countdown started on Mahalaya for that demon king… so….

        Well yes, it may translate to the great destruction- laya also means destruction. That fits in, right?

      • i have seen a horror (based on reality) series in discovery, there was a episode named casa de muertos. Spanish is quite an attractive language, is not it? Its nice to ears!

        it is interesting, is not it, how all “All souls days” fall in autumn or early winter?

      • Hey “Doina” (That your name?) 🙂
        I can understand the feeling. European winters are the reason I went back south. But then you enjoy a relatively safe life (I hope) (Here, the drug dealers + the police just killed 50 students…) 😦
        So look at the sky (grey?), at the trees (leafless?) Take a safe walk (in the rain?) and if all else fails, light a fire in the chimney (If you don’t have, buy one!) and put on a scratchy old Leonard Cohen record? 😉 or Neil Young maybe? (Heart of gold?) or Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t she lovely”. Doctor’s orders! Be good my friend.

    • I am “dead” serious! About the skulls. 😦 They are real.
      I wonder who the poor buggers were to end up on a café’s wall…
      Take care Madhu

  3. That condom skull was a great capture. I appreciate the work that went into pulling these shots together and putting the narrative with it. I love little sugar skulls and Dia de los Muertes figurines and it was interesting reading your post.

    • Thank you Kim. (Is your name Kim? Kim is one of my favourite characters in the writings I have committed!)
      And you’re right: a simple post like that, even though the photos were archived together does take a few hours. Cropping, editing the pix, ordering, and commenting. But comments like yours make it all worth the while! 🙂
      Take care

  4. One day I will make it to Mexico for the Day of the Dead, one day! Fabulous photos, reminds me a little of Bolivia but the traditions are quite a bit different these days; in the old days Bolivian families would take the corpse out of the tomb on Day of the Dead.
    Hope all is well, Paul

    • Take the corpses out? 😦
      They used to that in Madagascar every so often. Take the body out. Clean it, refresh it…
      Tot ziens, Brian

      • No self respecting family would want an unclean corpse, of course!

        In Bolivia they took the corpse out and had a picnic in the cemetery, they still have the food these days, just not the corpse.

  5. We don’t celebrate Halloween in Croatia, pero si festejamos el Dia de Muertos. Vi algunas peliculas documentales sobre esta fiesta en Mexico y es bastante diferente que en Europa. Muy interesante tu post, Brian. Bonne journee a toi!

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