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Mexico's Day of the Dead festival rises from the graveyard and into pop culture

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The models welcoming guests to an exclusive nightclub for a party to launch Mexico’s annual Formula One race were tall, mostly blonde and non-Mexican.

Each one had her face painted with the boney features of La Calavera Catrina, the elegant female skeleton once used to mock the rich Mexicans who aspired to be Europeans, but increasingly seen as the personification of the Day of the Dead – and a symbol of Mexican cool.

Día de Muertos was traditionally an intimate occasion, a three-day festival from October 31 to November 2 in which the living communed with the spirits of the dead and families remembered their loved ones at graveyard vigils and altars decorated with offerings of food, drink and flowers.

In recent years, however, the festival has moved out of a graveyard and private homes and into the public sphere in the form parties and parades, including an annual Day of the Dead parade – inspired by a scene from the James Bond movie Spectre.

The cavalcade of giant skulls and revellers in skeleton costumes has only existed since 2016 but has grown bigger each year. “As with everything in Mexico, if the appreciation comes from abroad, then we appreciate it, too,” said Pedro Zurita, a magazine editor in Mexico City.

Outside Mexico, Day of the Dead has shown signs of becoming a “yuppie Halloween – a bit strange and exotic, but still safe,” said Shawn Haley, a Canadian anthropologist in Oaxaca state. “People outside Mexico are starting to celebrate, but it’s more about the living than the dead.”

Nowadays, ad campaigns on both sides of the US border use the festival to promote everything from trainers and designer clothes to consumer electronics and canned goods.

Day of the Dead has even drawn comparisons to Cinco de Mayo, a public holiday commemorating the 1862 Battle of Puebla which is barely marked in Mexico, but is the focus of aggressive marketing campaigns for beer, tequila and bars in the US.

But the festival has also become as much about celebrating Mexicanidad – or Mexican-ness – as remembering the deceased, especially as the country becomes less Catholic.

And if Mexicans seem sanguine as it strays further into the realm of public spectacle, that may reflect the fact that it has already undergone dramatic changes since its origins as an Indigenous ritual, said Abraham Villavicencio, a curator at the National Museum of Art.

From the start, it combined Indigenous rites with Catholic settings, while in post-Revolutionary Mexico, the festival – and its iconography of skulls and skeletons – featured in the works of artists such Diego Rivera as a celebration of uniquely Mexican identity.

“The celebration has always changed,” said Villavicencio, whose family builds a mammoth 24-square-metre altar each year.

Not so long ago, some Mexicans fretted that the growing influence of US culture would see Halloween wipe out Day of the Dead – but the festival has proved resilient to outside influences.

Villavicencio, 37, recalls a costume day at his school in Oaxaca, where teachers admonished students to find costumes which were more Mexican, which – given the time of year – meant devils, skeletons and Catrinas.

And Mexican stores are more likely to hang papel picado and install altars than display Halloween images such as pumpkins, black cats and bats.

Ad agency Circus has measured social media mentions of both Halloween and Day of the Dead. In 2014, it found Halloween appeared 51% more often in social media conversations than Day of the Dead. But by 2018 Day of the Dead received 9.5% more mentions than Halloween.

“I don’t think the next generation of Mexicans will celebrate Halloween,” said Humberto Polar, president of Grey Mexico, an ad agency. “It’s a holiday that’s fading away.”

https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/offbeat/mexicos-day-of-the-dead-festival-rises-from-the-graveyard-and-into-pop-culture/ar-AAJq2Tl#image=1

 

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If you ever see them do the traditional day of the dead decorating the headstones of graves thing, it actually looks very cool.

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I've loved Día de Muertes ever since I've seen Coco. My most favourite Pixar movie by far.

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3 hours ago, nudge said:

I've loved Día de Muertes ever since I've seen Coco. My most favourite Pixar movie by far.

My better half has always loved sugar skulls and the festival....shes been bugging me to watch Coco for sometime I might have to then if its nudge approved as well!

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6 hours ago, Viva la FCB said:

My better half has always loved sugar skulls and the festival....shes been bugging me to watch Coco for sometime I might have to then if its nudge approved as well!

I'm sure she'll love it... And you will as well. Do both of you a favour and watch it :P

Be warned that it really hits you into your feelings though. I watched it with my father when it first came out and that was the first and only time I've ever seen him struggle with pushing away the tears :D and we're talking about someone who's tough af haha. I had to put on a Terence Hill & Bud Spencer movie afterwards to balance it out xD

 

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11 hours ago, Viva la FCB said:

My better half has always loved sugar skulls and the festival....shes been bugging me to watch Coco for sometime I might have to then if its nudge approved as well!

I'm with @nudge, it's a fantastic movie. 

However, my first thought when it comes to this festival and pop culture, is this scene. 

 

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'El día de muertos' is a great tradition, to remember all the people you know who have passed away. As someone who has lost quite a few good mates over the years, some family members and have mates who have lost parents, etc, it does make sense to have an occasion like this to remember people, unlike bonfire night which is to celebrate a fella being burned to death on a fire, which is actually dark-age shit when you think about it.

Do you still celebrate this @Teso dos Bichos, even though you have spent a lot of your life living in the USA and integrated into that society? Or is it still common for Mexican people in the states to celebrate it?

 

 

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21 minutes ago, Carnivore Chris said:

'El día de muertos' is a great tradition, to remember all the people you know who have passed away. As someone who has lost quite a few good mates over the years, some family members and have mates who have lost parents, etc, it does make sense to have an occasion like this to remember people, unlike bonfire night which is to celebrate a fella being burned to death on a fire, which is actually dark-age shit when you think about it.

You don't have anything like that in England? 

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Just now, Carnivore Chris said:

Not that I can think of.

That's a bit sad... We celebrate the Day of the Dead  in Lithuania which is a public holiday and it's also November 1st-2nd and then family and friends gather together and visit the graves of their loved ones, put flowers and light candles; it's also believed that the souls of the dead ones visit their families on that night so there's some similarities with Dia de Muertos only it's not as festive and joyful here but in the end it's also about remembrance and appreciation of those who passed away.

That's how cemeteries look like that night:

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In Cambodia they also have a similar festival called Pchum Ben; pretty much the same with people remembering and giving food and other offerings to the souls and spirits of their passed away relatives who are believed to come to visit the living during the festival.

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1 hour ago, Carnivore Chris said:

You don't have anything like that in England? 

Where To Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos 2019 In London

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Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead if you like) is sometimes seen as the Mexican version of Halloween. Actually, it's rather more complex than that. It stems from an ancient indigenous Mexican belief that at midnight on 31 October, the gates of heaven open and the spirits of deceased family members come to enjoy the celebrations for the first two days of November. Here are the best events in London honouring the tradition...

Day of the Dead

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21 hours ago, Carnivore Chris said:

'El día de muertos' is a great tradition, to remember all the people you know who have passed away. As someone who has lost quite a few good mates over the years, some family members and have mates who have lost parents, etc, it does make sense to have an occasion like this to remember people, unlike bonfire night which is to celebrate a fella being burned to death on a fire, which is actually dark-age shit when you think about it.

Do you still celebrate this @Teso dos Bichos, even though you have spent a lot of your life living in the USA and integrated into that society? Or is it still common for Mexican people in the states to celebrate it?

 

 

I celebrated el dia de los Santos muertos back home and also, the day before was known as el dia de los Santos angelitos(for the kids) we had the candy and the face painting but it was mostly spending time at the graveyard with a family picnic and bringing the death some bad ass flowers arrangements.:D if we couldn't make it to the cemetery, they would have flowers and candles in the prayer section of grandmas house. 

 

P.s. I'm sorry grandma but... I also have a santa muerte displayed around my house... I dont worship the devil by no means. 

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