Day of the Dead in Mexico City, 2015
5th November, 2015
It´s not an event as extravagant as portrayed in the film Spectre with Daniel Craig. But, El día de los muertos (or Day of the Dead in English), is a very real, very traditional celebration that takes place on 1st November every year in Mexico, and other Latin countries, although it is also celebrated in other cultures around the world.
It is a festive occasion whereby families and friends congregate to celebrate the lives of people who have passed away. Which to some, may seem morbid, but it is actually a joyous festive occasion, with people making numerous "ofrendas" or offerings, generally at a temporary altar, which consist of flowers, foods, beverages and other items that form part of a tribute to their deceased loves ones.
This year, as every other year, it was an event celebrated in various locations around Mexico City (and the entire country).
On Saturday, 31st October, one day before el Día de los Muertos. A large parade of people dressed as "La Calavera Catrina" was organized in Mexico´s City centre. Catrina was traditionally a figure created by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, it depicts an upper class lady in an often extravagant dress and hat.
It is tradition, during this festive period that people dress up and apply make-up to imitate "La Calavera Catrina", often with vibrant and flamboyant outfits.
This year was no exception, and I was quite simply amazed by the amount of detail that had not only gone into the vast number of ofrendas, but also the make-up, costumes and creativity.
It was nothing short of a photography odyssey, that allowed me to experience the events for myself and photo-document multiple activities and persons around me.
For any newcomer to el Día de Los Muertos in Mexico, it could also be considered scary. However, it is an experience and tradition well worth the time, and certainly worthwhile bringing a camera.
I had checked out where some of the activities were to take place prior to the date, so as to ensure I got maximum photographic exposure. However, as one could expect, the city centre was swarming with photographers and journalists all wanting to capture the activities and people participating in the parade of Catrinas.
The parade started at 6pm, a couple of the main roads that lead to the city square were closed to accommodate the parade and the thousands of people who had come to enjoy it. Taking photos was not a problem, and many of those participating and dressed as Catrina were more than happy to spare a few seconds to pose for the camera.
I spent a few hours following the parade with my camera, and trying to visually capture as much of the activities as I could from behind the lens. Young children and elderly people alike participated.
One of the benefits (or drawbacks, depending on your point of view) at such events, is people stopping you in your tracks and asking you take a photograph of them.
I think of it as a benefit, I consider myself a sociable person who enjoys meeting people from all walks of life and it allows me to get an insight into other peoples ways of life, traditions, culture, thoughts...the list is endless.
It also often puts people a little more at ease when Im shooting, a simple yet pleasant conversation awards trust and allows more relaxed shooting of your subjects with no tense expressions, or even allows you to some time to pose them.
In summary, El Día de los muertos is a traditional and cultural occasion that should by no means be missed if you are visiting Mexico during these festive dates.
Families often visit the graves of their loved ones during this period to celebrate the lives of the deceased, it can be an emotional time for all who attend. Grave stones may be cleaned, fresh flowers laid and personal items left, as a symbol of remembrance.
At night time, children in fancy dress often visit their neighbours asking for sweets or money, much in the same way as children in the UK would go trick-or-treating. I was stopped a number of times by young children asking for money or sweets, whilst photographing people and the activities in the centre.
I probably spent the majority of the weekend shooting el Día de Los Muertos and the multitudes of people dressed as Catrinas. It was an unforgettable experience and a very different way to spend a weekend and absorb the atmosphere. It was the first year during my time in Mexico, I have had opportunity to photograph the event and I certainly hope it wont be the last. I was content with my photographs I shot and the people I met,
Next year Im hoping to spend this festive occasion in Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacan, a small but picturesque town that is well renowned for its festive activities and colour during El Día de Los Muertos.
I have a couple of weddings to photograph between now and the Christmas period, for which I hope to start creating blogs as well.
Thank you taking the time to read this far, and I hope you enjoy the content I´ve shared with you here.