Michoacán, Mexico - It's about finding the right note, flower and candle to celebrate Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, a Christian, religious tradition combined with pre-Hispanic funeral rites. One of the best places to experience this is just outside Pátzcuaro, at the cemetery in Tzintzuntzan.
Meso-Americans considered Pátzcuaro to be the "door to the sky," a place where the gods ascended and descended. They also believed that life and death are two aspects of the same reality. Whether leaders or servants, everyone was buried with offerings to be used in the next world.
It is a sea of color and light. Each plot is adorned with favorites of the deceased, including food and drink. Candles are lit to light the way for the dead so they can join the celebration. This commemoration was practiced by the indigenous people for at least 3,000 years, until the Spaniards tried to abolish it, but they were not successful.
To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards changed the dates so it coincided with All Saints' Day, which commemorates the souls with eternal and direct visual perception of God and All Souls' Day, remembering the faithfully departed, November first and second, and this continues to be the new tradition.
In Mexico, Day of the Dead celebrations vary from town to town. The holiday is divided in Pátzcuaro, if the deceased is a child. On November first, Vigil of the Little Angels, the family commemorates the child's life with respect and appreciation for the parents. At midnight on November second, The Wake for the Dead, begins.
Altars, arches and various other decorations are put together at the grave site. Portraits are displayed, along with personal goods, clothing and possessions of the deceased. A social gathering, people often camp out and cook right there. Latinos view this as a way of recognizing the cycle of life and death, which is part of human existence.An all-night candlelight vigil takes place by the graves. The whole occasion is festive, and everyone talks of the dead as if they were still alive. During this time, people remember, re-live, and enjoy.