Last year, I decided to ditch the annual Halloween festivities in New York City to go and try to get some ‘culture’. I’ve seen the film Coco far too many times, and I needed to go to Mexico and see what it was really like. I packed my bags, told my manager I’d be gone for two weeks, and I ended up staying in Mexico for half a year. Needless to say, my bosses were livid but I was having the time of my life!
First and foremost, I’d like to clarify that this blog post isn’t a photo diary unlike my previous posts about Mexico. I mean, of course I’ll add photographs on the bottom part of this article…or maybe bits and pieces as it progresses. Oh, I also just wanted to clearly state that this article is mostly about my personal experiences celebrating Día de los Muertos in Ciudad de Mexico, nothing more. I’ve gone under fire a few times before due to an article I wrote via Medium comparing the Philippines and Mexico. So if you’d like to be the judge of that, then the article is available HERE.
Where were we? Oh, yeah, Día de los Muertos.
To be quite frank, I had no idea what to expect when I boarded my flight out of JFK. It was a week before Halloween and I was just ready to experience what Mexico had to offer. Naturally, I watched Coco on the flight from New York City to Ciudad de México. Well, what was I to do in five hours?
As I landed in Mexico, there was a surge of excitement flowing through my veins. I had been wanting to go to Mexico for a while now, and I just couldn’t believe that I had actually done it. Sometimes I just can’t believe that this is the life I get to live. I, truly, am blessed.
Before I came to Mexico, I had a vague idea of what it was like: traffic jams everywhere, drug cartels and burritos. Well, let me tell you that Mexico is nothing like that. Yes, they don’t really have burritos in Mexico, that’s an entirely made up food concept…well, Tex-Mex, maybe? I’m not really sure. They do have tacos though, and a whole lot of different styles at that. There’s taco al pastor, taco barbacoa, taco arabes, even vegan tacos and so much more! You’ll never get hungry when you come to Mexico.
For the days leading up to Día de los Muertos, everyone at my hostel was watching Coco. It was insane! Everybody just suddenly wanted to see this film by Disney. I also remembered that there were parades everywhere and people were painting their faces like la Catrina.
To get into the spirit of Día de los Muertos, you had to paint your faces. You didn’t have to worry even if you don’t really know how to paint because artists were usually lined up on the streets waiting for a face to paint. It’s quite amazing how such talented people just gather together and make beautiful face paintings.
A full face of make-up is $100 MXN or $5 USD. Honestly, if you see how amazing these people are, you’d want to get your face painted too! There are different designs that you can choose from. The artists have portfolios where you can flip through in search of a design or you can come up with your own designs too! I had my face painted twice: first I chose a design from the artist and the second was from Google, heh.
We celebrated Día de los Muertos for nearly two weeks. It was a celebration of culture, of art and of family. Not many people know this, but Día de los Muertos is actually a very intimate family holiday. Yes, just like in the film, Coco. This is the time when family members head to the cemetery to visit their loved ones. They also prepare food and drinks that their loved ones liked when they were alive, and they put it on the ofrenda.
Next time that I’m in Mexico for Día de los Muertos, I’ll make sure to get invited to an actual family gathering. I wonder what it must’ve been like, just being with family during this amazing celebration. Sharing stories about your loved ones who are already in the afterlife, and just continuing with your family traditions. It must’ve been quite spectacular and sentimental.
Another popular thing to take part in whilst you’re in Ciudad de Mexico during Día de los Muertos is the James Bond Parade. You see, Daniel Craig’s James Bond had this very popular scene on Spectre where they were in the midst of a Día de los Muertos parade. This blew up and everybody went to Mexico to see it. However, people got very disappointed because this parade was not actually a thing pre-2015.
After the film blew up, the tourism board have decided that they’re going to do the massive parade to honor the world’s most popular super spy, James Bond. So the James Bond Parade has been a thing for over a few years now. It’s just so interesting how pop culture can affect a country’s tradition.
Obviously, we had to take part in the James Bond parade. I went with some of my friends and we had a blast…well, aside from the fact that there was a low-key thunderstorm in the midst of it. You see, it gets super rainy in Ciudad de Mexico during October to November. So you’d get heavy rain almost every single day. So we were drenched during that parade, but it didn’t stop us from having fun!
Experiencing the vibe of Día de los Muertos in Mexico is one of those things that you just have to do, at least, once in your lifetime. It’s such a different experience and you can really feel how important this holiday is to the people celebrating it. This holiday is a celebration of the dead and the living, and it’s such a beautiful thing to have witnessed.
Sometimes it’s so amazing how much cultures are different yet so alike. In the Philippines we don’t really do the whole pageantry, but we do visit our loved ones in the cemetery too. Honestly, the Philippines and Mexico are so similar and this is a topic that I’ve talked (and written) about so many times in the past. I’ve also written a full article about that same topic and you can read it HERE.
As usual, we’ve come to party after all the festivities. Mexico is so alive during Día de los Muertos, as ironic as that might sound.
I know I said this blog post isn’t going to be a photo diary, but I just feel like the following photos are too good not to share. So here are some of my favourite photographs from when we celebrated Día de los Muertos in Ciudad de México:
Oh, lest I forget, another thing that you can only get in Mexico during Día de los Muertos is this bread called Pan de Muertos. It’s basically a sweet bread with margarine (i think) and a lot of sugar. My friend, Alan, loved it and he always fed us Pan de Muertos with hot chocolate.
Día de los Muertos in Ciudad de México is an experience that I’ll never forget. It’s a celebration of love, relationships and culture. It’s something that’s going to live forever and it’s something that you can never forget. I’ve loved every bit of my time in Mexico, but more so during Día de los Muertos.
Oh, the following are some selfies because I wanted to show you guys how my face was painted:
I’m so sad that I’ll miss Día de los Muertos in Mexico this year, but I’m sure that my path will lead me there again in the years to come. So no need to worry about it. Also, you might’ve been wondering why most of these photographs were taken using my iPhone, it’s because my SD card was stolen and it had all the photos I took of the week-long Día de los Muertos celebration. Needless to say, I was pissed and upset. But hey, it happens and there’s no reason to be upset over things done in the past so yeah.
Have you been to Mexico? How do you celebrate Halloween in your country? I’d love to hear all about it so comment below!
For now, all I can do is reminisce and just think fondly of the memories spent with my friends. After all, this is not the end. So, that’s it…I’ll probably just hang out in my room and watch Coco now. That’s such a classic Dani move. Anyway, have a great weekend to all and I hope that you guys have a wonderful November. Abrazos!
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13 NIV