Dispatches From Mexico City: Hollywood’s Influence On Dia de Muertos

Well, October's here and that traditionally means it's time to celebrate in Mexico.

More specifically, it’s time to celebrate death.

Around the local mercados small stands have popped up selling everything from traditional Halloween costumes to papel picado, the traditional paper decorations that adorn buildings and alters around the city.

Author: Channel E2E blogger and resident musician Ty Trumbull
Author: ChannelE2E blogger and resident musician Ty Trumbull

That’s because in just a few weeks we will be celebrating Halloween and Día de Muertos -- Day of the Dead -- within a matter of days.

It’s important to note that Day of the Dead is not a Mexican version of Halloween. While the two holidays are related, they differ greatly in tradition and tone. Halloween is usually reserved as a night of mischief and horror while Dia de Muertos is an affirmation of life through a celebration of death.

What’s interesting to note is just how much foreign minds have influenced the local celebration in recent years. The popular film Coco, for example, has become ubiquitous around the city and country as people have taken great pride in seeing their culture represented on a global scale (which says a lot about the power of representation in Hollywood). Toy guitars and carton Xoloitzcuintlis (the Mexican hairless dog) are everywhere.

Another example of Hollywood’s influence on local celebrations is the annual Day of the Dead parade circling around the city’s Zocalo (or center). But in reality, the parade is only two years old and was inspired by the James Bond film Spectre. I have distinct memories of them filming this movie in the days after I first arrived here. Helicopters appeared to circle dangerously low above the city’s historic center and large crowds gathered to watch the mayhem.

But the film had more of an impact on the city, as its opening scene of skeleton-clad revelers would inspire the real-life parade to be held this year on October 27. The parade makes for a decent tourist attraction and brings in a lot of money for the city.

The actual Dia de Muertos celebration takes place on November 1 and 2. I already have plans to be far away from the city in the Mayan Riviera, so you can look forward to some reports from the Playa del Carmen area and the celebrations from the pueblos of the area.

For now, I’m going to head out and buy myself some traditional candles, papel picado, pan de muerto, Cempasuchitl, and other things to build my own ofrenda or altar.

Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey, M&A and business continuity for ChannelE2E. On the occasional 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.