Mexico City comes alive for Day of the Dead parade

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Giant skeletons, colorful costumes, mariachi music and dancers filled downtown Mexico City on Sunday as the Day of the Dead parade returned for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Thousands of people, including locals and tourists alike, lined the road through the capital to get a glimpse of the procession, which was canceled last year due to the coronavirus.

Like many, Yadira Altamirano came with her face painted in “Catrina”, a skeletal representation of death that has become the symbol of one of Mexico’s most important festivals.

“Last year I wanted to come, but it was canceled,” said the 38-year-old Mexican, who has lived in the United States since she was a child.

“Now we have our chance,” said Altamirano, an enthusiastic practitioner of Day of the Dead traditions.

“I am the only one in my family who always puts out an altar and we always have dinner on November 2 at midnight,” she said.

The parade began in the Zocalo, the capital’s main square, where city authorities dedicated the event to medical workers on the front lines of the pandemic, as well as victims.

Thousands of people lined the road in Mexico City to get a glimpse of the Day of the Dead procession CLAUDIO CRUZ AFP

The country of 126 million people has an official Covid-19 death toll of more than 288,000, one of the highest in the world.

But with most of the capital’s adults now vaccinated against the virus and daily deaths falling, authorities have given the green light for the parade to take place this year.

‘He feels good’

“It feels good, but of course with the proper precautions against Covid,” said Conchis Garcia, 52, who came with his family from the eastern state of Veracruz.

Dancers and floats paid homage to Mexican culture and traditions, from street vendors to authors, film icons and painter Frida Kahlo.

Mexican authorities have dedicated the Day of the Dead event to medical workers and victims of the pandemic
Mexican authorities have dedicated the Day of the Dead event to medical workers and victims of the pandemic CLAUDIO CRUZ AFP

With its bright colors and cartoonish skeleton costumes, the Day of the Dead has become an internationally recognized symbol of Mexican culture.

From November 1 to 2, people across the country normally adorn their homes, streets and the graves of their loved ones with flowers, candles and colorful skulls.

The festival, which was added in 2003 to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage, centers on the belief that the living and the dead can commune for the brief period.

The street procession is a relatively recent addition to the celebrations.

First staged in 2016, it was inspired by the opening scene from the 2015 James Bond film “Specter”.

In the film, the British agent played by Daniel Craig pursues a villain through a parade featuring giant skeletons floating among people dancing with their faces painted as skulls.

While Day of the Dead is one of Mexico's most important festivals, the parade itself was inspired by the opening scene from the 2015 James Bond film.
While Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s most important festivals, the parade itself was inspired by the opening scene from the 2015 James Bond film “Specter” CLAUDIO CRUZ AFP

The authorities have decided to recreate the procession to revive tourism.

Last year it was canceled as the government urged people to stay at home to avoid spreading the coronavirus, and many cemeteries have been closed to prevent crowds from gathering.

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