Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is the well-known Mexican holiday that serves to honors the deceased. Elaborate culinary dishes and having plenty to drink are key to the many parties, which are so integral to this annual celebration that blends indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism, which was brought to Mexico by the Spanish conquistadores.
In Mexico, the festivities take over much of the country, as family members and friends gather at cemeteries to honor their dead relatives. Cruisers stopping by Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Valleta, Mexico in the weeks after Halloween should keep their eyes peels for omnipresent calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls) designs, which feature on everything including candy, parade masks, and storefront window displays. Though they may see a little macabre at first, the skeleton and skull imagery is actually used as a reassuring reminder to everyone involved that death is a natural part of life, and even those that are long gone will always be a part our communities if we remember them and honor their memories.
For those that can’t make it to Mexico for the celebration, most cities with large Mexican or Mexican-American populations often put on their own local versions of the holiday. Additionally, this year, fans can get their Dia de los Muertos fix at the multiplex when the animated film “The Book of Life,” opens in theaters on Friday, October 17. The movie, which is a visual tribute to the holiday, features the voices of Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana and Channing Tatum, in a story about Manolo, a young bullfighter who must brave the underworld on his path to true love.
Produced by Guillermo del Toro and directed by Jorge Gutierrez, the film is set against Dia de los Muertos, which Gutierrez—who was born in Mexico City—has said is his favorite holiday; indeed his passion for the festivities shines through. A visual feast, the film is filled out with colorful papel picado (cut-out paper decorations), folk art references, as well as Mexican bolero and norteno versions of pop songs by the likes of Radiohead, Rod Stewart and Mumford & Sons.
In interviews, Gutiérrez has said that he’s wanted to tell a Dia de los Muertos story since childhood, when his best friend Mauricio died at the age of nine. “My parents set me down, and said, ‘Your friend, Mauricio, he is with you as long as you talk about him and you tell his jokes and you remember him and you, keep his memory alive by talking about him,’ ” Gutiérrez told NPR in a recent interview. Through The Book of Life, he does his friend proud.
How and where will you be celebrating Dia de los Muertos?