I have always dreamed of going back to my native Mexico to celebrate the Day of the Dead. When I mentioned this to my friend Enid, she responded with much enthusiasm that she too wanted to go. We purchased flights and made hotel reservations.
Day of the Dead – History
The Day of the Dead is a celebration that takes place in Mexico, and elsewhere by people of Mexican heritage. Altars are made in memory of those that have died and are decorated with flowers, candles, and food. Friends and family visit the gravesites, and prayers are recited. Mexican people believe that on this day, their loved ones are allowed to come back to earth and visit them. Death is a normal part of life, and it is not seen as scary but as part of the cycle of life.
The Day of the Dead, or El Dia de Muertos, in Spanish, is a mixture of ancient Aztec traditions and All Saints Day, which was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores. Whole families will make the journey to the cemetery together, where they will clean and repair the tombs, bring fresh flowers, and other artifacts to decorate the gravesite. Many families will also place a photo of the deceased on the altar or gravesite, along with their favorite food, drink, and meaningful artifacts.
The trip officially transitioned to a girl’s trip when another girlfriend joined us. The plan was to arrive in Mexico City, meet up with a local friend, then drive to San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, approximately four hours outside the city. The drive is long and uneventful; however, there are several gas stations along the way, with clean bathrooms available to paying customers. Most public restrooms in Mexico charge a small fee to access. Once out of the city, which has horrendous traffic, we saw many trucks loaded with flowers for the Dia de Los Muertos celebrations every few miles. This holiday can be defined as colorful and joyful.
Mexico is known for its fresh, innovative, and delicious food. Hungry patrons can choose tasty tacos from the many street vendors, to Michelin rated restaurants; Mexican cuisine has something for everyone. On our way to San Miguel, we stopped at a roadside stop and had lunch. We ordered tacos and then watched as the owner made fresh corn tortillas. I find it fascinating that there is so much street food available in Mexico. I never go hungry, there always seems to be someone selling tacos, tamales, corn, or fruit cups at every block. The choices are varied, tasty, and inexpensive. In recent years Mexican chefs have made their mark in the world stage with their innovative cuisine and interpretation of old family favorites.
In San Miguel, we ate at Rustica, a not to be missed restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. The setting is rustic and charming, we arrived before the morning breakfast crowd and were able to grab a table outdoors. The food was absolutely delicious! The staff speaks English and is attentive.
In San Miguel de Allende, we stayed at La Casona, the hotel is centrally located, and about five minutes from the central Plaza Colonial. The staff was friendly, and the rooms well appointed and comfortable. There are several local restaurants, shops, convention center, and public parks within walking distance of the hotel. I highly recommend the hotel, book online, or call the hotel directly.
In Mexico City, we stayed at the J.W. Marriott, located in the luxurious Polanco district. The staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating, and the rooms large and well-appointed. Centrally located, within a short walk to the metro and other significant locations in the city. The hotel has restaurants on-site, as well as very attentive concierge staff.
Day of the Dead – Dia De Los Muertos
I don’t remember celebrating the Day of the Dead as a child growing up in Mexico. Not knowing what to expect, I had no expectations. We headed out to the Plaza Colonial, where the famous cathedral is located. Along the way, we stopped to get our faces painted and bought headpieces made out of fresh flowers. I felt so happy to be there, everyone was in a happy mood, live music was playing around the plaza. It was challenging to find a restaurant to eat dinner, the wait time was long, and few take reservations.
We enjoyed watching the Catrinas walking around the plaza in their beautiful costumes. They graciously stopped when asked if we could take a picture.
Return to Mexico City
We left San Miguel de Allende on Saturday morning and headed back to Mexico City. Our departure was a few hours later than planned, and this impacted our return to the city. Arriving during rush hour, it took us almost two hours to advance less than two miles. The plan was to visit Xochimilco, take a ride along the canal, then head to Coyoacan. Xochimilco was fun and colorful, a not to be missed experience. We hired a mariachi band to sing for us, it was so much fun to have the live music on our boat, and see my friends laugh and dance to some of my favorite songs.
Although the trip was short and non-stop, it was full of laughter and memorable moments. I had never taken a trip like this before, and feel incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to experience it. It is experiences like these that can sometimes challenge us to look outside ourselves, and reflect on the value that our friends contribute to our personal growth. Friends certainly help to elevate life to a whole other level.
If you have or are planning on celebrating El Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico, share your experience with us. Should you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave it in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading!