Mexico City’s Day of the Dead: A Cultural Celebration of Death

Photos: Dia de los Muertos preparations in Mexico City on October 10, 2018. | Photo credit: Reuters/Adriana Castañeda In January, I joined a delegation of 10 reporters from Mexico’s leading media outlets to explore…

Mexico City’s Day of the Dead: A Cultural Celebration of Death

Photos: Dia de los Muertos preparations in Mexico City on October 10, 2018. | Photo credit: Reuters/Adriana Castañeda

In January, I joined a delegation of 10 reporters from Mexico’s leading media outlets to explore five Mexico City neighborhoods where a significant proportion of the city’s population is expected to celebrate the annual Day of the Dead next week. Along with the rest of our group, we passed by the many cemeteries that dot Mexico City’s streets as well as the historic center’s many colonial houses, some with elaborate altars devoted to the dead.

The historic cemeteries and neighborhoods where the cemeteries are located are all very different. The cemeteries in Colonia Guerrero, an affluent and historic neighborhood on the northern end of the historic center, are adorned with life-size wooden representations of mummified skeletons and skulls. These are called “el cuerpo de muerte” (the body of death) and they stand in stark contrast to the ornate, intricately carved altars of mummified skulls and body parts that are typical of the other cemeteries in the city.

The cemeteries in Cercado, the neighborhood that includes the Zócalo that sits on the east side of the historic center, are adorned with life-size wooden representations of mummies. These are called “el cuerpo de muerte” (the body of death) and they are covered with elaborately carved altars for the dead.

Finally, there’s La Reforma, an area just northwest of the central Zócalo that contains cemeteries of all types. These include altars for living deads, altars for the dead, and cemeteries with simple stone sarcophagi.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on October 10, the day of the fall equinox. On that day, the dead are thought to return to the land of the living. The Day of the Dead is very popular and has become celebrated all over the globe.

On this trip, we interviewed several people from diverse backgrounds and various regions of Mexico to understand the Day of the Dead as both a living and a cultural celebration of death. These interviews took us to four neighborhoods that are known as centers of the Day of the Dead in their respective places, C

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