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.
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.
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.
The bottom of an altar inside the church in Huaquechula, Puebla.
A home altar in Huaquechula, dedicated to a loved one who passed several years ago.
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.
An altar in Huaquechula, Puebla.
An altar dedicated to two young men who’ve died.
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.