This morning we had an early rise as we were heading to Tepoztlán and it would take us two hours or so the get there. Thom and I decided since we were up early anyway....(time difference I guess) that we would try breakfast at the Casa de los Azulejos or "House of Tiles" that we heard was worth it for the building and history. This place remember from the first post:
Now we were kinda confused about the menu and strapped for time so I forgot to get a picture but here is one I am borrowing to give you an idea:
Ok so into the vans and time for a nap....
Then we arrive two hours or so later at Tepoztlán. According to myth, Tepoztlan is the birthplace over 1200 years ago of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god widely-worshipped in ancient Mexico. Remember that info from the last post too? I liked this town very much nestled up in the mountains with lots of fun markets.
So when we first arrived we were free to either walk around and shop or hike up this very steep mountain to the Aztec pyramid of El Tepozteco. We opted for the hike.
So once again, here we are kids, up the mountain with no oxygen due to altitude.....
Not nearly as bad as Machu Picchu but definitely slowed and humbled by the lack of oxygen. So was pretty much everyone else who was hiking the mountain both in and outside of our group so that made me feel slightly better about the whole thing...lol
Thom went ahead with some of the guys and I opted to do some of the trail with other ladies from our group and the end by myself.
It was more peaceful and personal by myself to not have to worry about anyone else and to push myself on my own. I liked it very much.
Finally the top!
Greeted by my husband of course...
Oh wait maybe not!
These little Mexican Raccoons as I will call them have many different names but are actually Coati. They are super friendly but beggars.
Oh there is my husband! Let's go up shall we?
Making out on the ruins!!!! That is how we roll!
This is me on top of El Tepozteco.
It is refered from Tepoztecatl, the pulque (alcoholic beverage) god whose temple is on top of one of the mountains that make up the ridge. (this is what the internet told me at least????)
This is Me and Javier.
The views up here were wonderful and worth the trek.
Coming down the mountain was much easier and faster than going up of course. We stopped and got some tasty sherbert/waterice off the street where I learned the difference between limón (lime) and lemon...he he he We soon met up with Chimi and the group and had a few moments to check out the local market.
People were selling items for Dia de Muertos such as sugar skulls
Marigolds- the flowers of the dead.
Which oddly they use almost like our pumpkins. They are hollowed out and then faces are scratched into them.
I saw some families using them as lanterns at night later that evening.
Then just by chance we caught a small parade that was happening. They were walking through the streets to the main square.
Check out these videos for a glimpse:
We met in the courtyard of the church where there were many things happening. The church was also decorated for Dia de Los Muertos.
There was some kind of folk dance competition happening on one side of the courtyard and some of the people from the parade we saw earlier were gathered around another area performing this dance. I am not sure exactly what it is suppose to symbolize but it has something to do with the Jaguar being the Spaniards I think first whipping the people of the land into working but then they rise up and all get whips and fight the Jaguar. Ummm those costumes must be padded because later it got really violent with the whipping! You can hear them ringing the church bell too. Here is a taste in the video:
After we headed to Roxana Bentes de Moura's restaurant/house where we would be eating lunch as well as creating our own altar for Dia De Muertos.
Roxana and the women here were absolutely wonderful! I will try to explain more about the day and the rituals here through what we did.
The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.
An ofrenda (Spanish: "offering") is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Dia de los Muertos celebration. An ofrenda, which may be quite large and elaborate, is usually created for an individual person who has died and is intended to welcome him/her to the altar setting. Ofrendas are constructed in the home as well as in village cemeteries and churches.
The use of Marigolds is also important.
In modern Mexico the marigold is sometimes called Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings. Here is Thom helping to make the trail from outside to our altar so that the dead can find their way.
Most ofrendas contain three levels or tiers: on the topmost tier are placed photographs of the deceased and/or images of various saints which are positioned in a retablo which forms the back of the altar. Some people had a picture but most of us just wrote the name of a loved one lost on a piece of paper. We each were given a sugar skull as well.
On the second tier are placed food items including such things as mole, candy, pan dulce, and especially a sweetbread called pan de muerto...
as well as bottles or poured shot glasses of tequila or mezcal
On the bottom-most tier are placed item such as lit candles, a washbasin, mirror, soap, and a towel so that the supposed spirit of the deceased see themselves and can refresh themselves upon arrival at the altar. We had masks and flowers.
It was a very beautiful and emotional moment in the trip and even though it is suppose to be a celebration of a person's life it is still really hard to not feel any sadness in remembering.
Then we were in for a special treat because Roxana also plays the roll of “La Calavera Catrina" on stilts!
Here she is getting herself and one of her students she works with up and ready!
Catrina is a classic iconic character for Day of the Dead and you will see children and adults dress like her or dawning her hat all over the streets.
La Calavera Catrina, also known as "Dapper Skeleton" or "Elegant Skull" is a 1910–1913 zinc etching by famous Mexican printmaker, cartoon illustrator and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada. Originally called "La Calavera Garbancera," the image depicts a female skeleton dressed only in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time.
While the original work by Posada introduced the character, the popularity of La Calavera Catrina as well as her name is derived from a work by artist Diego Rivera in his 1948 work Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday afternoon along Central Alameda).
Rivera depicts a culmination of 400 years of Mexico's major figures, which include himself, Posada, and his wife Frida Kahlo. Rivera took inspiration from the original etching and gave Calavera a body as well as more of an identity in her elegant outfit as she is poised between himself and Posada. The intent seemed to be to show the tradition of welcoming and comfort the Mexicans have with death and especially the identity of a lady of death, harking back to the heritage of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl. As explained by curator David de la Torre from the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Catrina has come to symbolize not only El Día de los Muertos and the Mexican willingness to laugh at death itself, but originally Catrina was an elegant or well-dressed woman, so it refers to rich people4, de la Torre said. "Death brings this neutralizing force; everyone is equal in the end. Sometimes people have to be reminded."
We left the lovely mountain town...
and headed towards Mixquic. This town has typically been know to be one of best places to visit because the people traditionally fill the very old cemetery with candles and flowers. That is not what happened for us this year unfortunately though and still not exactly sure why.
When you first arrive you see this:
Quite impressive these GIGANTIC figures towering over you.
Then you must meander your way through this incredible crowded long commercialized street fair that feels like it completely contradicts the somber spirituality of the whole occasion in a way.
But there are tons of families and people here and most are not even tourists from out of the country. There are people with their faces painted like skulls and little girls wearing big hats that represent Catrina.
All kinds of street food. It would all be fine and fun to me if it was only maybe on the other side of town and not say right up the the doors of the cemetery and church gate. But that is just my personal feeling and perhaps not what the people f the town want, I do not know nor do I want to speak for anyone but myself.
We went through the gates...
and first went into the church which was absolutely beautiful.
But then we were highly shocked and disappointed in that there were hardly any flowers and no candles or decorations or offerings at all on any of the graves. Although the cemetery itself was really cool because it was so old and the history and look of it.
But there were no families celebrating or sitting by the sides of their loved ones gone.
I managed to see one or two graves decorated but even taking these pictures felt really weird.
You see if it had been what it typically was suppose to be it would have been ok to admire from afar and give blessings and love to the families and the beauty they put into remembering their loved ones. But this was not that and some people were simply running around on the graves taking selfies. It seemed very disrespectful in a way and Thom especially, was getting upset about it. I agreed too and so we left.
So times they are a changing. I don't know if it has become so commercialized or such a big "attraction" now that families are deciding to not participate in this way anymore and are perhaps keeping their memories alive at home more with offerendas? Perhaps sitting in a cold graveyard is no longer appealing to the youth who would rather be out at a street fair with their friends or participating in something more similar to Halloween and getting candy? Perhaps it is none of these things. I really can't say but even though we were disappointed our group, for the most part, was amazing in not letting this get us too down and not letting this ruin what was already an amazing trip so far. This day was already packed with so many amazing memories and history of the the holiday and culture.
If you have wondered where all the original VW Beetles went...well I would say Mexico got most of them.
We saw them everywhere and in every color and not those modern ones that they tried to remarket to my generation in the 90s. Javier said they use to be taxis here. I did really enjoy seeing them again everywhere....