After banning traditional visits to cemeteries last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico returned to mass commemoration of the Day of the Dead on Sunday.
But the one-year gap showed how the tradition itself refuses to die: Most families still celebrate deceased loved ones with home altars, and some go to cemeteries anyway.
Gerardo Tapia Guadarrama joined several others at the cemetery on Sunday as he visited the grave of his father, Juan Ignacio Tapia, who died of thrombosis in May 2020.
Even though cemeteries in Mexico were closed to visitors last year to avoid spreading the virus, the tradition is so strong that her son still slipped in to meet them at the cemetery in Valle de Chalco, an eastern Mexico City suburb.
‘Last year it was forbidden, but we found a way,’ said Tapia Guadarrama smartly. Most cemeteries have low walls that can be jumped over.
“To live is to remember,” he said. “What they (the deceased) want most is meeting the people they were close to in life.”
The holiday begins on October 31, remembering those killed in accidents; This continues to mark those who died in childhood on 1 November and then as adults on 2 November.
Observance includes the cleaning and decoration of the entire family’s graves, which are covered with orange marigolds. On both cemeteries and at home altars, relatives light candles, making offerings of their deceased relatives’ favorite foods and beverages.
There was a special altar in downtown Mexico City dedicated to those who died of COVID-19. Relatives were allowed into a closed plaza and offered equipment to print pictures of their loved ones, which they could pin to a black wall with handwritten messages.
It was a quiet, grim remembrance in a country where deaths from the coronavirus touched nearly all extended families.
Mexico has had more than 288,000 test-confirmed deaths, but the probable coronavirus death toll listed on the death certificate suggests a toll closer to 440,000, with some counts being the fourth highest in the world.
For a country where people are usually surrounded by relatives, COVID-19 was particularly brutal, as loved ones were carried away in plastic tents, to die alone in isolation.
“The only thing I could tell him was, ‘Do whatever the doctor tells you,'” Gina Olvera said of her father, who died of coronavirus. “That was the last thing I could say to him.” Olvera said he told his father, as he taped his picture at the memorial, “Well, you didn’t make it, but you’re here with us.”
A woman cried after pasting a relative’s photo. Another, Dulce Moreno, was calm but sad as she pinned a photo of her uncle and her grandfather, Pedro Acosta Nez, both of whom died of complications from COVID-19.
“Without him (Grandpa) now the house feels empty, we feel lost,” Moreno said.
For most, it was a joyous retreat, above all, to public altars and public activities such as the Hollywood-style Day of the Dead parade, which Mexico City designed to mimic a fictional march in the 2015 James Bond film “Spectre”. was adopted for
“These days are not gloomy here; they are a way to remember our dead with great joy,” said Otilia Ochoa, a housewife who, along with dozens of others, took pictures of flower-decorated offerings near the coronavirus memorial. Came for Ochoa said, “What good is it to get this freedom back, that touch we had lost”.
Despite the city’s relatively high vaccination rate, tens of thousands of Mexico City residents – almost all wearing masks – gathered along the city’s main boulevard on Sunday to watch a parade of dancing skeletons, dancers and floats.
There were few references to the coronavirus in the parade, but there was an entire section of skeleton-costume actors representing Mexico City’s street traders and vendors.
“We are here to celebrate life!” Mexico City Tourism Secretary Paola Felix Diaz said opening the parade.
More risky group activities like Halloween-style costume parties and trick-or-treating still haven’t recovered from the pandemic. But the kids took the opportunity to dress up in Mexico-style Day of the Dead costumes as skull-like Catrina, or the red-clad guard from the Netflix series “Squid Game.”
But Mexico has long had a different approach to death, more social, more accepted, than in many parts of the world. Here wakes and funerals are often elaborate, day-long events that gather entire neighborhoods and extended families to eat, pray, and remember.