Top Places to Travel in 2019 Series
The movie Coco gained a lot of attention when it first premiered. It’s portrayal of the Mexican holiday, Dia De Los Muertos, had viewers curious as to whether a holiday like that could be so brilliant.
Lucky for those viewers, the holiday is exactly as it’s portrayed in the movie. What is this strange holiday that covers the streets with orange flowers?
Mexico is popularly known for a lot of things: their tacos, their mezcal, and their love for the dead. The Day of the Dead, or Dia de Los Muertos, is a commemoration of those who have passed away, where locals head to the cemeteries, decorate the gravesites, drink in honor of their loved ones, and provide offerings that the dead enjoyed in their life.
Celebrations start on October 31st and continue on to November 2nd, the Day of the Dead. Every Dia de Los Muertos is full of color, full of emotion, and much bigger than one would expect, just like in the movie, Coco.
Remembering the dead in Mexico will be an unforgettable experience, but if you’re in Mexico City, the exact location that inspired the cemetery scenes of Coco can be found in San Andres Mixquic.
Day of the Dead Festival Series:
• Dia de los Muertos Traditions in Mazatlán, Mexico!
• Mixquic, Mexico: Celebrate Day of the Dead Like the Movie, Coco!
How to Get There?
Take the train to the very last stop, on the metro line 12, Tlahuac. One way is 5 pesos. From there, go right and take the second staircase down to find several small buses or minivans. The vehicle will say Mixquic in the corner in the front windshield, pictured below
The ride there is 7 pesos per person. Make sure you bring change. The ride is about 45 minutes and Mixquic is the last stop.
Visit the Cemetery
During the daytime, you won’t see many people in the cemetery, but you will see some gravesites decorated with gifts and orange flowers called marigolds– excellent for taking photos.
At night, starting around 11 pm, you’ll find the locals celebrating and drinking closer to the gravesites. This is the cemetery that inspired the cemetery scenes in Coco, so take some time to walk around and watch for people decorating the graves.
Get Your Face Painted
A popular way to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos is to paint your face to resemble the traditional catrina, an iconic symbol of the holiday.
In the main plaza of Mixquic, several locals offer face painting to visitors for around 60-70 pesos (2.9-3.40 USD) depending on the design you choose. It takes about 5-10 minutes and comes off very easily at the end of the day.
Pass Out Candy
While wandering through the village of Mixquic, you’ll be approached by several children. Do not be alarmed. While Dia de Los Muertos is not like Halloween, Mexico has adopted some traditions and made them their own. One of those traditions is the children go door to door and ask for their calaverita– little pumpkin– to be fed using several different mantras similar to our version of ‘trick or treat.’ Some of these children will walk right up to you, rather than homes, so be prepared to pass out candy and buy a big bag of it for the occasion.
Enjoy Traditional Performances
In a covered area of the plaza, a stage is set up for visitors to enjoy a variety of performances such as mariachi, dances, and plays. The performers are all dressed up and many of the performances provide a peek into the history of Dia de Los Muertos. Not all performances are on stage though. Some performances are scattered throughout the village, some you may have to pay for, others, like the marching band, you can just follow down the street as they march through the town.
Eat All The Food
There are several food stands that line the main walkways surrounding the cemetery, each serving up something quick and ready to eat. There are typical mini tacos which come with just onions, meat, and cilantro, but some stands even sell their tacos with french fries in them. If you’re sick of tacos and the rain has you craving something warm, definitely try out the traditional Mexican soup, pozole. Pozole is made from hominy and contains meat (usually pork), and topped with shredded cabbage, onion, radishes, chile peppers, garlic, avocado, salsa or limes. Sometimes these ingredients will be put on the side for the people to add to their liking.
If you’re sick of traditional Mexican food, (but, why would you be?) don’t worry, there’s more carnival-like food for those constantly on the go. A brocheta is meat on a stick, which you’ll find throughout the carnival alongside alitas which are chicken wings. You can choose between the flavors BBQ, al diablo (spicy), or buffalo.
Always look for the stand with the most people surrounding it, because you’ll know that that is the best meat. These dishes can be served with (an additional 10 pesos) or without fries and the cook will ask you if you want to add spice to it. There’s also candied fruit, sweet bread (usually used to decorate the ofrendas) and chocolate skulls, which are a traditional symbol of Day of the Dead. All of the stands have some kind of cover, so you’ll never be caught in the rain eating your food.
Wander the Alleyways
Locals decorate the alleyways in front of their houses with marigolds, large figurines, paintings, and plenty of other items that symbolize the Day of the Dead.
The alleyways may not be apparent at first because they are in between food stands, but once you see a line of marigold flowers at the center of an alleyway, you’ll know you’ve found an entrance to the maze of decorations.
Just remember that these are people’s homes, so be respectful of them and don’t climb stairs or enter buildings without permission.
Visit a Local ‘Ofrenda’
Going off of the previous statement, the village of San Andres Mixquic is filled with local people and the doorways are the homes of those local people. The locals of Mixquic are very friendly and are very proud to show off their ofrendas, however, don’t just barge in. You may admire the ofrenda from outside, and if you’re lucky you will be invited inside where the family will present to you the loved one that passed away.
Hint: some locals turn their bathrooms into public restrooms for a fee of 5 pesos, giving you an opportunity to enter their home.
San Andres Mixquic is a beautiful village of Mexico City where many locals encourage outsiders to visit to celebrate the Day of the Dead, so it’s no wonder it made its appearance in Coco. The amount of color, the neverending sea of orange flowers, and the cemetery where the locals go to celebrate all made it to the movie just as it is in real life.
So if you’re looking to celebrate the same way that Miguel’s family does in Coco, head down to San Andres Mixquic. You won’t want to miss it!
Live an Awesome Life,
Disclosure: We paid for all our own meals. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights.
P.S. The big Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City occurs the weekend before October 31st. After witnessing the parade, go to Mixquic to experience the authentic celebrations
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