MEXICO CITY – Frida Kahlo, Cantinflas, Juan Gabriel and other national icons returned to the world of the living on Sunday and strolled Mexico City’s streets during the annual Day of the Dead parade, promoted in recent years as the most universal Mexican festival.
From the heart of the Mexican capital in Zocalo square and along nine kilometers, thousands descended the streets disguised as dead people with huge floats and allegorical figures, less than a week before Mexicans receive their deceased loved ones in their homes.
“I really like to see the people united, this is one of the few times that it happens,” Sara, who was at the festival and only gave her first name, told EFE on Sunday. For her, the parade also marks an occasion where children stop playing with their cell phones and learn the meaning of Mexican traditions.
As usual, the parade began presided over by a giant skull adorned with orange marigold flowers that, according to tradition, use their intense color to guide the deceased so they can reunite with relatives.
The march saw elegant catrinas – women with skulls painted on their faces, an icon created by engraver Jose Guadalupe Posada and popularized by famous Mexican painter Diego Rivera. They greeted the 2.6 million people who according to organizers crowded the city.
No one could predict the enormous popularity this event would gain when Mexico City authorities decided in 2016 to reproduce the parade of the dead that appeared in the James Bond film “Spectre.”
The British spy did not appear in the recent parade, but the numbers speak for themselves: Seven alebrijes (mystical folk creatures) chariots, 16 giant puppets, artistic representations of six states of the country and a cast of 1,000 people were part of the kilometer-long (0.6-mile) procession.
The parade also included three wheeled adaptations of Mexico’s trajineras – colorfully decorated boats resembling large covered wooden pontoons propelled by a pole, similar to a punt – which usually navigate shallow rivers.
Sunday’s parade, along with the huge offering of the dead to be built this week in Zocalo, shows Mexico’s pride in its traditions and its efforts to ensure that the festive concept of death – that Mexicans have, but is surprising to the world – is not lost.
“I came to the parade to teach my children what culture is and to see all the traditions of our country,” another parade attendee by the name of Oscar, told EFE, expressing satisfaction with the progress of the Day of the Dead celebrations in recent years.
The Day of the Dead, with its skulls, catrinas, colorful alebrijes and Mexican marigold flowers, is already an inseparable part of the country’s image, along with tacos, mariachis and the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Hence, the parade mixed the theme of death with other distinctive features of Mexico. It witnessed a contingent of catrinas disguised as the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata along with a ring of popular wrestlers and dozens of people dressed as the endemic monarch butterfly.
And in a country that idolizes its artists like few others, one could not miss a gigantic and colorful Frida Kahlo, lying in bed where she developed part of the work that made Mexican art a universal reference.
According to the tradition of the Day of the Dead, which has pre-Hispanic roots, on the night of Nov. 2, the souls of the deceased temporarily leave their world to visit their living loved ones.
Mexicans prepare for the occasion by placing orange petals of Aztec marigold in their houses to guide the dead. They remember their deceased loved ones with their photographs and prepare their favorite delicacies so that they can enjoy them upon their return.