Last week Mexico celebrated the Dia de Los Muertos – also known as Day of the Dead -and we joined in on the celebration in Playa del Carmen, near our home on Cozumel. For those that don’t know, it’s not just a “Mexican Haloween” and it’s not all about skulls and white face paint. There is a much deeper meaning to this important day, which dates back before the Spanish arrived. Today, people make altars and decorate graves of the dead, in order to invite them back for one day a year to eat and visit with their relatives.
This was Rob’s first ever Day of the Dead in Mexico, so we wanted to make sure that we did it right. So we made plans to visit Xcaret Park, where they were hosting their annual “Celebration of Life and Death” event to coincide with the Day of the Dead and it was an exciting way to celebrate Mexico’s folklore and history. Xcaret is an adventure theme park located along the main highway south of Playa del Carmen. This year they were featuring Estado de Zacatecas, which is where Norma grew up. It was a fun way for us to celebrate Mexico together.
We had tickets for the evening show, so we had time for breakfast in Playa del Carmen, took an afternoon trip to Cenote Azul – one of the many “sinkholes” located throughout the Yucatan Peninsula – before heading to the main gate just before our 4pm ticket would allow us to.
We had a few hours of exploring the park before the show, which included a trip to the “Bridge to Paradise” Cemetary, where the graves were decorated with orange flowers and candles. Afterward, we continued through the park, visiting the Aviary, a bird sanctuary where we saw many different tropical birds and local flora, and followed by the butterfly sanctuary. Xcaret is a huge park, but since we were here with only evening tickets, we decided to make our way back to the main entrance towards the concert hall. On the way back we sampled some local food, walked through the Mayan Ruins and found the main displays of the “Altars to the Dead”.
The Altars are set up in memory of friends and family who have passed on, where they leave offerings of their favourite foods or hobbies alongside their pictures. The Day of the Dead tradition stretches back before Mexico and before the Spanish arrived; with the Altars, the dead are able to visit for one night and enjoy the food and family that they might be missing in the afterlife.
The day finished with two shows; the first was the “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” a choreographed show which featured the Regional Mayan history, as well as the arrival of the Spanish, and focused on a few different states throughout the country. The final act was a beautiful acoustic set by Mexican performing artist Ely Guerra.
A Celebration of Life & Death:
Often mistaken as just the Mexican version of Haloween, this holiday holds quite a bit more meaning, and is a tradition that goes back before the Spanish arrived. It celebrates friends and family who have passed on, having a night where they decorate the graves with orange flowers, and leave out alters with pictures and food so they can come back to visit.
We celebrated this year at Xcaret Park, just south of Playa del Carmen, Mexico with their “Celebration of Life and Death”. We wandered through the Bridge to Paradise Cemetary – which was decorated for the day of the dead – as well the bird sanctuary and the Mayan Ruins. There were many altars set up throughout the park. The day ended with two shows; the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular and a performance by Mexican performing artist Ely Guerra.