Experience Mexico at its most authentic. As October draws to a close, cities across the country come to life with colourful celebrations for Día de Muertos—the Day of the Dead.
By Daniel Hayden
A fiesta for the soul, Mexico takes on an otherworldly tone at the height of autumn. Small altars and shrines, elaborate flower displays and grinning skulls are spotted at every turn. An iconic celebration, Día de Muertos honours the lives of departed relatives and ancestors. People take to the streets and gather with friends and family to pray and share stories.
Despite the subject matter, it is in no way a sad occasion. Día de Muertos is a vibrant and cheerful celebration, noted for its bright and colourful imagery—particularly that of the calaveras, intricately decorated skulls usually made from sugar or chocolate.
Wherever you go, you will find each town has its own regional traditions. In some places, it is more common to visit neighbours in their homes to share food and show your respects. Elsewhere participants don elaborate costumes and enjoy music and dancing in public spaces.
EVENTS TO INSPIRE
Each year, San Miguel de Allende hosts its annual La Calaca festival. Meaning ‘The Skeleton’ in Spanish, La Calaca is a unique participatory arts event running from 30 October to 2 November. Taking over venues across the city, revellers can take part in workshops, lectures, tours and processions during the day. Come nightfall, you can lose yourself in extravagant fiestas that last until sunrise.
Previous years have seen an array of spectacular entertainment; from provocative installations by famed photographer Spencer Tunick, to a special performance by the ‘Sonic Butterfly’, the world’s largest stringed instrument. The artistic spirit, rich culture and exuberant energy that saturates La Calaca has earned the event a lot of acclaim since its inception, with Fest300 touting it as an excellent alternative to the Burning Man Festival in the US.
Be at the heart of the action and stay at Casa de Sierra Nevada, A Belmond Hotel, San Miguel de Allende. Housed in a cluster of historic buildings in the city centre, the hotel is a sophisticated base for your cultural escapade. Not only will you be spoiled with luxury accommodation that reflects the city’s colourful heritage, but during Día de Muertos you’ll also receive a special calaveras-inspired welcome amenity to get you into the spirit.
For those wishing to escape the bustle of the larger cities, unique celebrations can still be found on the country’s coastline. Head to the golden sands of the Riviera Maya for a relaxing stay at Maroma, A Belmond Hotel, Riviera Maya, and celebrate Día de Muertos in a true piece of paradise.
Each year, the resort hosts an authentic Hanal Pixán event. This ‘feast of souls’ is a tradition specific to the Yucatán Peninsula and differs slightly from the celebrations held in central Mexico. Stunning altars are set up in some of the public spaces, replete with regional dishes and fruits and bedecked with marigolds as tribute to departed spirits. During this time, take the unique opportunity to reconnect with your ancestors through a special spiritual ritual at Kinan Spa. You’ll also be treated to special calaveras-inspired treats at the nightly turndown.
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