THE DAY OF THE DEAD - Puebla, Mexico, 2006

The Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, is a Mexican a festival celebrating the reunion of dead relatives with their families. It is celebrated yearly on November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day).

An ancient pre-Contact belief that ran thru numerous Mexican cultural groups was that the dead return every year to visit their relatives. They eat, drink, and are merry, just as when they were alive.

Families visit their deceased relatives’ graves, sweep them, and have picnics there. Some even spend the night. On All Soul’s Day, they are honored by having their favorite foods and drinks set out. The graves are adorned with marigolds and candles which are supposed to guide the spirits “home.”

In Puebla, probably the most religious city I have ever been in in Mexico, the Candy Street is filled with stores that sell pan de muerto (special coffee cake decorated to look like bones), skull-shaped sugar candies in horrific pinks, greens and yellows, altars with your name on them, and pictures of the saints, marzipan death figures, and all sorts of other skeletally-related sweets. None of them taste very good, in my opinion. I wanted to buy samples of the sugar altars but was worried I couldn’t bring them thru customs, so I didn’t. :(

There are altars set up in all the municipal buildings in Puebla, as well as in the zocalo (town square), restaurants, and even the flea market! In the zocalo, there are also chalk drawings of Aztec figures, a band stand where local celebrities perform, a circus with acrobats and motorcyclists, and balloon sellers.

I have never seen Day of the Dead altars with political messages before, nor have I ever seen ones set up to remember certain groups of people not related by blood to the people setting up the altars. However, in Puebla, these were common.

The more I thought about it, the more the altars dedicated to, say, miners who had died, or orphans, or Frida Kahlo, were like how we honor the memory of vets. on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day (i.e., thinking about those who gave their lives for the country, even if we’re not related by blood).

Anyhow, in Puebla, it is quite a festival! We sat around the zocalo, drinking cervecas and people-watching for hours.

 This altar commemorated miners who had died.                         This one commemorates martyrs.


Market where you can buy Day of the Dead things to decorate the graves or altars, plus an altar made by the stall owner.



This one was made for Frida Kahlo.