My trip to the Emerald Coast of Mexico instilled a new appreciation for the rich culture behind “Day of the Dead Puerto Escondido.” Images of skulls and skeletons synonymous with Dia de los Muertos combined with the proximity to Halloween, make it easy to draw immediate parallels between the two occasions.
Day of the Dead Puerto Escondido spanned the first two days and nights of November and I was fortunate to get a taste for how Dia de los Muertos is celebrated here and in neighboring communities.
Iconic Day of the Dead Costumes at Vivo Resorts
The first Day of the Dead Puerto Escondido event, held at Vivo Resorts, was a celebratory display of music and dance highlighted by performers adorned in costumes representing Calacas (skeletons) and Calaveras (skulls). I’d seen the iconic Day of the Dead pictures featuring intricately detailed face paint but I’d never really appreciated how the costumes are a symbol for celebrating life while showing your acceptance of death.
Altars are decorated with food and gifts as another way to honor the lives of deceased family and friends by sharing the things they enjoyed most while alive. The influence of Catholicism and All Saints Day is apparent as there are some that believe this is the evening the dead may come to visit and enjoy the pleasures of life one more time. If this is indeed the case, the performers at Vivo certainly did their part to encourage a celebratory atmosphere.
Celebrating Day of the Dead in Chila
The next evening, a group of us staying at Vivo Resorts were presented with the opportunity to celebrate Day of the Dead with the residents in the nearby town of Chila. I suppose it would have been natural to have some trepidation about voluntarily jumping on a bus after dusk to be taken in to the heart of small town Mexico, or many North American cities for that matter, but led by our resident tour guide, and native of Chila, Jesus (pronounced Hey-sus), I was excited to get the real experience.
We were quite literally dropped off in the heart of town. The single street lamp emitting just enough light to illuminate the silhouettes of a few partiers congregated in the middle of the street around a small 3 – 4 man brass band. Not really knowing what to expect, our group inquisitively took our places on the outskirts of the party and peered on with interest. Little did we know this passive participation wasn’t going to fly with the locals.
One-by-one the group of us were invited to join the festivities and recruited to become dancing partners. It took me a while to figure out most of my partners were actually masked men in dresses but I was still flattered by the attention. The spirited affair continued for about 20 minutes until the one masked dancer with a distinctively different headdress motioned to the group and we started moving.
Walking down the street our group multiplied in size as more locals joined the brigade. Perhaps 100 yards later the group came to a halt and the dancing started again. It was now becoming clear we caught the beginning of this celebration and the cycle was going to continue for some time. Sure enough, the routine continued for a couple hours until we’d recruited what seemed like half the town and merged with a similar group that must have been the other half. This certainly was a community event.
Appreciating Life on the Day of the Dead
The highlight of the night was to be invited into the home of one of Jesus’ family friends. It’s quite possible everyone in Chila is a family friend of Jesus as it was obvious his infectious personality was not just a show for work but a genuine reflection of his pride for the people and traditions of his home. We were guided through the back door of a modest storefront to the family living room where my eyes were immediately drawn to an altar against the far wall. Simply decorated with food, drink, and a few pictures, it was an homage to past family members. I found it an unfamiliar paradox to have a prominent reminder of the deceased with a genuine mood of celebration all around but I was a minority in many ways on this evening and my perceptions were no exception.
The head of the family didn’t see our unannounced visit as an intrusion of space but rather welcomed us with offerings of drinks and stories about his children.
Here is a picture of Jesus holding a Pelota glove while explaining how the oldest boy plays the ancient game at school.
After sharing a sample of smoky mezcal we graciously thanked our hosts and returned to the party in the streets. I have no doubt the party continued into the wee hours of the morning but our group was too exhausted to keep up and we returned to the Resort.
After having time to reflect on the experience, Day of the Dead Puerto Escondido certainly wasn’t like trips into town that I’ve experienced on typical destination vacations. It was an unrehearsed peek into the lives of the people of Puerto Escondido and Chila, and their genuine happiness despite having very few modern luxuries.
It was also only a small window into a very rich culture that has sparked my interest in learning more. I’ve since spent more than a few minutes on YouTube gaining an appreciation for the game of Pelota and look forward to my next trip to Puerto Escondido and the adventures it will bring.
Check out this history.com article to read on the Origins of the Day of the Dead.
Article written by Nic Gray, Marketing Manager, Vivo Resorts
To learn more about Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca, or about Vivo Resorts Oaxaca Beachfront Living, please call Vivo at 1-888-236-2876 (toll-free from the USA or Canada).
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