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Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

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Halloween in Mexico

Dia de los Muertos is not a festival, but a festive religious holiday.

I planned my trip to Mexico specifically so that it would coincide with Dia de los Muertos. Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I thought it would be cool to see what Mexico's famed Dia de los Muertos would be like.

I went with the expectation that there would be a fiesta-type atmosphere, with lots of music, parades, dancing, bright colors... you get the idea. I came to find out that this was a misconception -- or at least for this part of Mexico. I was told that those kinds of celebrations have become popular in resorts where they play it up for the tourists, in Mexico City, and in parts of the American Southwest. But here in the Yucatan, it is more somber and reverential.

Offerings for Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos is a time when Mexicans pay homage to their departed friends and family. The traditional celebration consists of a large feast held at home that features all of the departed person's favorite foods. In conjunction with the feast, celebrants go to the cemetery and leave some food on the graves. Some of the items characteristic of the holiday are loaves of bread baked in the shape of little people, and elaborate, colorful sugar sculptures of skulls. The photo above is an offering put together for the benefit of the tourists at my hotel, but I was told it was pretty representative.

The holiday spans several days. Children are honored on a day of their own, and I was told that the day of the children is the most serious and somber of the holiday. However, it is at night-time on this day that the kids get dressed up and go out in costumes eager for candy.

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The children of Cozumel dressed up in homemade costumes for Dia de los Muertos. Their parents walked them around throughout the town center, and watched over them as they approached people for candy.

I enjoyed the view from a table in a small outdoor cafe that looked out over Cozumel's main town square. I asked permission of these two little ones' parents if I could take their picture. I couldn't blame them for being bashful.

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It struck me that this aspect of Dia de los Muertos may have been an imported tradition, but who can say? I certainly thought that Pumpkin and Speedy Gonzales were adorable. And I have to give the girl props for her creativity. Not sure what she is, but the witch/hunchback hybrid definitely caught attention.