Mistaken assumption corrected. Authentic Day of the Dead celebrations are something only found in small towns populated predominately by indigenous Mexicans. Wrong.
November 2, the Day of the Dead, is a godsend for cab drivers in San Cristobal de las Casas. This city’s main cemetery is a surprisingly long hike from the center of town, so it’s the busiest day of the year for taxistas.
The pantheon resembles a miniature city of mausoleums of all colors, shapes and sizes crammed closely together, each fully covering their allotted real estate. Sunday, the few through “streets” of this cemetery city were one chaotic traffic jam of pedestrians bearing food and flowers. Scampering children played hide-and-seek amongst the tombs.
The food preparations of some families were elaborate, resembling Thanksgiving feasts. Tables and chairs had been carted in. Some squeezed into mausoleums not much bigger than telephone booths. Some hired musicians, one poor drummer forced into a two-foot-wide space between the walls of two casitas for the dead. The sounds of guitars, marimbas and accordions were heard everywhere.
For those unable to prepare in advance, there were long rows of tented pop-up restaurants set up outside both entrances to the pantheon. Beer was flowing freely; caguamas (large family-size bottles) topped many a table. A major fiesta.
Even though many of the celebrants were taking photos of their families and selfies, we still felt taking photographs too intrusive. But here are a few….