I’ve been hearing about Dia De Los Muertos (Day of The Dead) in Mexico ever since I became a travel enthusiast. I think the first time I saw it was during one of the episodes of the Amazing Race where they needed to look for a clue during a Dia De Los Muertos Parade (or something haha). Seeing faces with skull make-up really didn’t appeal to me. I found it scary actually. It was a big WHAT THE HECK? Why would I want to participate in that? ….. Well, this changed after I watched the movie Coco. Hahaha. I somehow got a deeper understanding of the culture and tradition all thanks to a Disney Movie. After watching Coco, I immediately placed “ATTEND DIA DE LOS MUERTOS” on top of my bucket list.
Fortunately, my travel blogger friend Trisha (www.psimonmyway.com) recently relocated to Sayulita, Mexico and I thought that it will be a good opportunity to visit Mexico ( and Latin America) while she’s there. And what is best time to visit? Of course I PLANNED IT IN TIME FOR DIA DE LOS MUERTOS!!
Watch My Dia De Los Muertos Vlog Here:
SAYULITA, NAYARIT MEXICO
As mentioned, my friend was staying in Sayulita, Nayarit, Mexico during the time that I planned to visit. Being just a small town, as a tourist traveling first time in Mexico, it is unlikely that you’ll choose to go to Sayulita to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, but the idea that sold me to stick with the plan was thinking that celebrating in a small town, you’ll get the authentic “pueblo” (town) vibe that you look for in participating in a very local tradition. Nothing commercial, but purely celebrating like the locals do. I always believe that this is the best way to experience a country.
So where exactly is Sayulita? Sayulita is a small beach town located west of Mexico City. I took a flight from Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta, and took a private car from Puerto Vallarta Airport to Sayulita, Nayarit.
Sayulita is famous for its chill beach culture. It is somewhat similar to Bali in Indonesia and Siargao in the Philippines. You’ll see beach ready expats and digital nomads everywhere. Even on Dia De Los Muertos, people are still chilling by the beach ready to hit the waves and surf. (more about Sayulita in another Blog).
Watch my tour around Sayulita Vlog here:
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS / DAY OF THE DEAD
The Day of the Dead popularly known as Dia De Los Muertos is a holiday that is widely celebrated all throughout Mexico and parts of the United States.
Dated since the time of the Aztecs, this festivity is celebrated on a span of 2 to 3 days. Some says it is celebrated from the 1st of Nov till the 2nd, but during the time we were in Mexico, celebrations starts from the 31st of October and ends on the 2nd on Nov.
During these days families gather together, pray and commemorate family members who passed away. It is believed the dead visits their family who prepared a decorated altar called ofrenda.
Ofrendas normally decorated with their dead family member’s memorabilias, favorite food and treats and beautiful ornaments. This is to show their loved ones that they are missed and remembered. It is also believed for the family to provide drinks in the altar to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey back home.
In Sayulita, the main square was decorated with hanged papel picados and marigold flowers. During our visit (2019) the streets were also filled with diamond like knitted ornaments known as the Ojo de Dios (God’s Eye). A stage was also set for performances during the 3 days celebration.
I am not sure if this is a tradition in every household, but in our house, the landlord prepared a dressed up female skeleton (paper mache of course) and called it Catrina. (La Catrina). They said if it is a man it is called Catrin (Catrines Hombres).
Aside from ofrendas at home, there were households who also installed ofrendas in the plaza. I am not sure if it is a contest, but these ofrendas were extravagant.
During the first night of the 3 day long celebration, the night started with street parade. We were not able to catch it ugggh. We arrived late and just realized that there was a parade after seeing my friend’s FB post the day before haha. What a shame.
For the 2nd night, this was the time where we decided to have our make up done. Although you can create you own make up ala DIY, we figured out that this might be the first and last time we’ll do this so better get a professional to do it for us (and get good instagram photos) . We contacted a make up artist who has a booth in the plaza and hired her to do ours. You don’t need to prebook, you can just go there and wait for you turn.
There are photos of make up inspirations you can ask the make up artist to copy if you don’t have any ideas (like us). What I love about our make up artist is the extra touches she brought. She even made my hair blue haha.
Total for the make up is 350 Mex Pesos, plus I got a hat (at first I thought it was free…but not) costs 150 Mex Pesos.
We love our make up. And we got approvals from people passing by. Hahaha. My friend Ave even got featured in a fashion website for her make up.
Around 11 pm people started moving to the nearby cemetery in a procession. This probably the highlight of my Dia De Los Muertos experience. The scene was crazy. Being used to the Philippine cemetery being eerie and solemn, Mexican cemetery on Dia De Los Muertos was a culture shock.
There was a stage with a mariachi band, people were dancing and singing along and almost everyone were drunk! Yes..drunk! it was indeed a big colorful party!
Thinking about it, were they disrespecting the dead? In their culture, this is the way they celebrate with them. And I actually prefer it to be this way.
For the last day of Dia The Lost Muertos, we didn’t have our make up on anymore (it was very hard to remove..I am not kidding, I even used canola oil to removed it). We used this time to explore and went to bars, party and drink for the whole evening. We ended the day with a big concert at the plaza (stayed till 3am! Wow).
Celebrating Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico is really a unique cultural experience. I would love to do it again and experience how other cities celebrate (on a bigger scale).
True that for others it can be a big culture shock and feels like disrespectful towards the dead but for the Mexicans, this is their way of celebrating and commemorating their loved ones. That death is not the end but something to be remembered and celebrated.