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Here is the link to the tourist bureau site.
Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
All across Mexico, a very old and culturally integreted festival is still alive and enjoyed by the Mexican people. It was made to coincde with the All Souls Day of the Church. In reality, it goes way way back to the Aztec culture and similar festivals in South America.
It's celebrated November 1st and 2nd. And the adventuresome traveler might enjoy going to Mexico on the off-season and enjoying this rather happily macabre celebration.
It's a very family-oriented holiday. Altars are made in homes with pictures of deceased relative, and on these altars are often offerings of food, sugar candy skulls and marigolds--flowers that symbolize the occasion. Of course, flowers at a funeral go way back in all cultures (to both bring some beauty to the sadness of the funeral, and to help mask unpleasant odors). Marigolds also help keep away insects. A helpful thing for keeping the deceased unbothered.
In many cities and towns (as in Playa Del Carmen on the Riviera Maya), there are public parades, dances (where tourists are often welcome if one is repectful and not a flash camera fiend). People do dress up as in other cultures. But the one outstanding and errie presence, seen everywhere, is the human skeleton. Skeleton brides and grooms. Skeleton priests, cowboys, babes in bikinis sans skin, Skeleton teachers in classrooms filled with skeleton children. You name it--there's a skeleton in that closet!
The legend of Caterina (look it up)--her form with his huge flowered hat--is a symbol for the day. Sugar skulls. Candied skulls. Ceramic skulls that are painted with the most florid and beautiful designs. Some are true works of art and cost gah-zillions! Some have butterflys and moths and flowers growing out of the eye sockets of the grinning skulls.
In the beautiful and rugged Sinaloa Mountains, there still are indigenous folk like the Huichnol people who are descendants of the Aztecs, dispersed and hunted, first by the Conquistadors and then the modern Spanish government. Many of them still live the old ways and speak the old languages, musty and beautiful with age. The Huichnols still make pottery or even styrofoam forms in the rough shap of a skull. They cover it with molten beeswax, and laboriously press thousands of tiny colored beads into each skull, lizard and turtle making intricate phenomenally decorated skulls--what skill for skulls. These Huichnol skulls are very treasured, and they are NOT the fun-loving and playful incarnations of death transmogrified in modern Mexican culture. A Huichnol skull might have on either side, snakes slithering in unison (looking for all the world like the convolutions of the human brain.... hmmmm -- a funny thing happened to me on the way to the sacrificial forum). There may be lizards, proprietary tribal designs, and the most haunting deep blue eye sockets that seem to yank gazes tumbling into the abyss. To purchase one of these unnerving works of native art is to take a rather mystical chance that no spirits attached to them travels well.
From the hill people, the Huichnol whose Shamans still smoke herbs and find magic mushrooms... to the more modern Mexicans who have small beautiful shrines and meals and special foods to honor relatives past, Mexico never ceases to amaze the astute observer with her depth of cultural beauty and mystery.