With my ride for the day cancelled at the last minute I was left to ponder the fact that the Day of the Dead is not quite as ubiquitous a Mexican holiday as I was led to believe. Antonio and fam do not even celebrate it, as he states, “I remember the dead every day” while noting that there is little need for such a holiday. Wise words from a wise man. But look I’m an American, an inquisitive visitor, in this strange and savage land, and as I yearned and pined for the Americana on that voyage through our vast nation so I yearn for the archetypical Mexico that floats about in my head, the one that celebrates Dia de Los Muertos with verve and gusto and style and skeletons dancing about playing guitars and shit.
Some of the finest DdLM celebrations in all the land of old Mexico occur in the traditional and predominantely Indian strongholds along Lake Patzcuaro, a place where ancient customs still hold their macabre spell. It is a breathtaking sight when all the village gathers about in the cemetario holding vigil, singing songs, and putting the final touches on their altars to the dead, or so I hear. I also hear that it is a massively touristic affair and that the strap sandal, khaki shorts, and fanny-pack wearing crowd is reppin’ hard so it wasn’t a terrible dissapointment missing out on all that fanfare when Daniel and his papi, my chaueffers for the day, had to go to work instead. I would spend the day strutting about Guadalajara, blending in with the gente, taking in the real deal Day of the Dead with real Mexicans, all the while tuning in and picking up on that ancient vibe.
Deep in the bosom of Guadalajara centro lies the Parque Morelos, which is the place to be if you need to pick up your last minute Dia de Los Muertos stuff. Market stalls ring the park and hawk all sorts of delightful trinkets and delicious treats. Dolls, candied skulls, and the bread of the dead. You can have it all. A celebration of death. Beautiful.
Cemetario Mezquitan is the epicenter of all DdLM celebrations in Guadalajara, indeed it is the largest cemetary in one of the largest cities in all of Mexico. Familes come here to set up their altars on the stone slab graves of loved ones passed. Enterprising urchins march up and down the rows of slabs with buckets and brushes to whitewash the markers of the dead so fouled by urban soot for a few pesos. Roving bands of mariachis, hungry for their share of the action, will sing and strum to a tomb for a small donation only. Golden marigolds are the flower of choice for all decorations and are blown about and snuffed under foot. Ancient grave markers faded and gone mix with towering spires to rich men who died long ago. One must be careful not to slip into one of the countless and deep open graves that wait with gaping maw for the once living, too deep to sleep. it is a cool scene no doubt. Mas chido.