Day of the Dead in Mexico
Mexicans are familiar with death — they joke about it, sleep with it, celebrate it; it is one of their favorite cultural leitmotifs. Here’s everything you need to know about the country’s annual Day of the Dead.
During the Day of the Dead festival in November, families hold veritable parties at the graves of their loved ones, decorating the colorful and often humorous niches with flowers, while enjoying picnics and music in the cemeteries. Hence, the birth of a National Museum of Death, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, is more than apt. Filled with joyous and satirical death art and skeleton dioramas, the Aguascalientes museum explores the nation’s macabre obsession.
The Mexican preoccupation with mortality has its roots in Mayan and Aztec cultures, which regarded death as a transition from life to reincarnation. No place on Earth do the dead receive such a warm and festive welcome from the living than el Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead — a two-day festival in November.
While the topic of death may be taboo in most societies, Mexicans engage in a unique dialog about the subject through death-themed art. Works explore themes ranging from Aztec mysticism to contemporary Day of the Dead imagery and even the current fascination with violent gang activities.
The original “La Catrina” was an etching that depicted an elegant woman as a skeleton. It has since become a symbol of death especially during Day of the Dead celebrations.
For a full-depth look into Mexico’s fascination with death, visit the National Museum of Death, in Aguascalientes, northwest of Mexico City.
Museo Nacional de la Muerte: Jardin del Estudiante, Aguascalientes; +52-1-449-1393258.