Day of the Dead altars in Atlixco and Huaquechula, Puebla

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November 4, 2013Travel6 Comments

A flower carpet, shaped with Day of the Dead skeletons, in Atlixco, Puebla. Photo by me.

A flower carpet shaped with Day of the Dead skeletons in Atlixco, Puebla. Photo taken by me on Nov. 1, 2013.

Due to a quirk in my travel schedule, I was able to spend this year’s Day of the Dead in Mexico.

My friend Rebecca organized an excursion to Huaquechula and Atlixco, two towns not too far from Puebla city. Rebecca had gone to Huaquechula a few years earlier, and she’d had the kind of experience that you’d hope to have on an intimate holiday like Day of the Dead. Locals had invited her into their homes to view their altars, and to eat and drink a little something. Festival organizers had created a map of the neighborhood, so visitors could walk from house to house and peek in open doors. Somehow the place wasn’t overrun by tourists.

The Huaquechula festivities didn’t start this year until at least 2 p.m., so beforehand we stopped in Atlixco, a pretty, quaint city known for its flowers.

Here are some photos from the day.

The altar dedicated to the Atlixco police department.

An altar built by the Atlixco police department.

An altar built by Atlixco students, featuring lots of fruit, bread, and a mirror, and crowned by a crucifix.

An altar built by Atlixco students, featuring lots of fruit, bread, and a mirror, and crowned by a crucifix.

This Atlixco altar has a few more savory items -- notice the nopal and chayote on the bottom level.

This Atlixco altar has a few more savory items — notice the nopal and chayote on the bottom level.

Traditional candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha) with crystallized fruit, at the Atlixco market.

Traditional candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha) with crystallized fruit, at the Atlixco market.

The bottom of an altar inside the church in Huaquechula, Puebla.

The bottom of an altar inside the church in Huaquechula, Puebla.

An altar in Huaquechula, dedicated to a loved one who passed several years ago.

A home altar in Huaquechula, dedicated to a loved one who passed several years ago.

An altar in Huaquechula, Puebla. The pretzel-shaped bread is a common theme.

The Huaquechula altars for loved ones who’ve died in the past year can envelope the wall of an entire room, from floor to ceiling. Pretzel-shaped bread is a common theme; one local person said they’re meant to mimic skulls.

Another altar in Huaquechula, Puebla.

An altar in Huaquechula, Puebla.

An altar dedicated to one or two young men who've died.

An altar dedicated to two young men who’ve died.

Neighbors sprinkle cempasúchil petals to their front doors in Huaquechula, to denote whether there's an altar inside.

Cempasúchil petals sprinkled from the street to front doors indicate that there’s an altar inside.

Rebecca said Huaquechula’s festivities had grown considerably from the last time she visited. I admit I wasn’t as interested in sitting around the center of town, which had carnival games, blaring music, food stands, and huge cups of beer edged in chile salt.

The neatest part of the day was wandering the empty streets and greeting everyone with a cheerful “buenas tardes.” And of course seeing the amount of beauty and detail that families had put into their altars, and the warmth they extended to strangers.

Hope you had a meaningful Day of the Dead celebration this year, too.

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6 Responses to “Day of the Dead altars in Atlixco and Huaquechula, Puebla”
  1. Raquelita

    On an ordinary market day, I’m a fan of the one in Atlixtco. Also, it is the original base for the Mexican firm, Italian Coffee Company!

  2. gloria

    All the altars are just beautiful. Not a year goes by that we don’t celebrate our loved ones gone. My altar is small but meaningful too. Love your photos. The last photo with the door though troubles me. That poor sweet dog with his/her ribs showing tells me he is or probably was very hungry. It saddens me. Hope you enjoyed DdLM.

  3. renae

    Yes. . . the last photo w/the poor sweet dog troubled me also. The ribcage showing is always a dead giveaway. It leaves me very sad. I hope he/she finds someone to love him/her. :(

    Thank you for sharing the photos and your experiences! Love from San Diego! XXOOXX

  4. Wayne Lambert

    Did anyone help the dog who is so obviously suffering?

  5. Lesley Tellez

    Wayne and Renae: There were a lot of stray and suffering dogs there, unfortunately. I’ve never owned any pets, and I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t even notice the dog’s state when I posted this photo (or else I wouldn’t have done it). Wondering whether it’s worth removing the photo — it is a part of life there, but I also don’t want people to be upset and troubled by the post, as that wasn’t my original intent.

  6. Wayne Lambert

    Lesley,

    I didn’t mean to throw a wet blanket on your very interesting article, but the plight of companion animals (including burros and horses) in Mexico is too often overlooked by residents and visitors alike. There are groups, both Mexican and foreign, which are working to alleviate the pain and suffering of these animals and they would welcome any support your readers might wish to offer. The primary approach is to foster an awareness of spaying and neutering and, as well, to promote humane euthanasia. Several years ago an excellent film on the problem, Companions to None, (www.companionstonone.com) was released and was nominated by the Humane Society of the U. S. for its Genesis Award.

    Regarding whether or not you should delete the photo, I believe the photograph has fostered a worthwhile discussion and perhaps some good can come from it.

    Best regards,
    Wayne

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