No holiday screams “¡México!” louder than Día de
los Muertos (Day of the Dead), celebrated November 1–2 to honor departed family
and friends.

The trappings of this annual event are familiar to anyone
with knowledge of Mexican culture: carefully constructed altars overflowing
with personalized ofrendas for the
deceased, bright orange marigolds—la flor
de muertos
, an infinite variety of flamboyantly adorned skeletons.

All of this and more is on offer in Mexico City. But here,
the capital’s metropolitan population seems just as excited about a different
tradition, one newly arrived from north of the border: Halloween.

Against a backdrop of pastel papel picado and marigold petals, vendors hawk ghoulish rubber
masks, witches’ brooms, and face paint. On the metro, toddlers costumed as
pirates, wizards, and warriors hold out tiny pumpkin pails to strangers, giggling
at the clink of each deposited centavo. Saturday night at the Zócalo sees bands
of goth-garbed teenagers posing for pictures in front of the cathedral.

It’s hard not to notice that many of the Day of the Dead
exhibitions filling the city’s main plaza seem intended not only for
celebration, but for education—whether describing the cultural importance and baking
techniques of pan de muerto (the
sweet bread traditionally prepared for the event), or elaborating on the holiday’s
pre-Hispanic roots.

Of course, el Zócalo isn’t the only place in the capital to
observe festivities. Down every calle of
each colonia, in homes, hotels,
restaurants, markets, museums, monuments, and—naturally—cemeteries, ofrendas are thoughtfully presented.

Whatever the connotations of the encroaching trick-or-treat
mentality, it’s obvious that even here in the heart of the mega-metropolis, Día
de los Muertos reigns supreme.


More scenes from this year’s Día de los Muertos in Mexico
City can be found on my blog Wayworded.