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Dispatches From Mexico City: Day Of The Dead

Author: Ty Trumbull

If you’ve never been to a Day of the Dead celebration, I highly recommend booking your flights for next year.

I’m hard-pressed to think of a more fun and wholesome celebration that brings together so many different people for one event. Back home, most of the holidays I remember celebrating are more concerned with family. Christmas is spent inside opening presents with your loved ones, and maybe there will be an outing to some sort of community event later in the day. Thanksgiving is spent in the kitchen and around the dining room table. But when it comes to Dios de Los Muertos, whole cities gather for days in central squares, people are decked out in makeup and costumes, and everyone is enjoying themselves.

This year, my girlfriend and I headed to San Miguel de Allende to take in the sights. Our trip started with the bus ride out of Mexico City. Taking a bus around Mexico is nothing like taking a bus in Canada or the U.S., in my experience. The bus we took was nicer and more well-equipped than the plane I just took from Canada. You’re given snacks and drinks, your open personal monitor, a decent selection of movies, and more legroom than most movie theaters.

No Escaping the Traffic

Sadly, no matter how nice the ride is though, you’re still subject to Mexico City traffic. As such, the ride took a little longer than expected and we missed the parade of Catrinas around San Miguel’s center square. Still, we treated ourselves to a nice Italian dinner before taking in some jazz and tequila at a nearby bar.

The next day we woke up early and headed to the famed hot springs just outside of the city. If you’re ever there, I highly recommend bringing a book because after half an hour of sitting in tepid water I was bored. Still, the long passageway into the underground sauna was pretty cool and the guacamole was delicious.

That evening we enjoyed the best Thai food I’ve had South of Toronto at Orquidea Thai Restaurant. We were informed that’s because the chef is actually from Thailand. Which brings me to an interesting fact I discovered about the town. Much of San Miguel de Allende modern culture has been created by foreigners. Historically, the city dates back to the indigenous peoples, but by the mid 20th century, the population dropped so low it was in danger of becoming a ghost town thanks to an influenza pandemic during the war years. But the architecture of the town, coupled with low property costs, became attractive to foreign artists who moved in and created various art and cultural institutes.

Anyway, I digress.

As we made our way into the centro, we were met by throngs of people wearing skeleton masks and fancy costumes. A large stage was set up at the foot of a well-lit neo-gothic church and a man in woman in elaborate skeleton costumes were leading the festivities. The music that played out of the loud speakers had the feeling of a Disney Halloween special, making it perfect for the skeleton dance performed by local children and the elaborate puppet shows put on by the evening’s hosts.

While I couldn’t understand a lot of what was going on, the people around me laughed at the jokes and danced and clapped along to the music. We eventually found a rooftop patio to watch the festivities from and closed down the evening there.

The next day we headed to the beautiful botanical gardens located outside the city. After spending so much time in the city it was the perfect escape to get out and experience real nature. Walking the entirety of the gardens takes about an hour and a half. But the breeze and shade make the heat very bearable and the sites are well worth the walk.

That evening we returned to Mexico City and immediately began planning our next trip. We’re thinking about heading to the desert to ride horses. I’ll definitely let you know how that goes.


Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday or so, he offers views about his adopted hometown — his personal Dispatches from Mexico City. Oh, but sometimes he pops up in his home nation of Canada.

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