Day of the Dead Mazatlán 2018

DSC_0057Mazatlán knows how to put on some of the best parties ever, and I say that with a lot of worldwide experience, not lightly. This year’s Day of the Dead alley parade or callejoneada did not disappoint. Visitors from the interior of the country, elsewhere in Latin America, north of the border and Europe all reported to me thoroughly enjoying themselves and the revelry that is Día de Muertos in our port.

The callejoneada this year was held on November 2nd instead of the traditional 1st, due to the changeover in city government. Thousands attended the annual festivities, which are some of the most exciting and participative in the country. The parade began at 8:30, and there were performances inside the Angela Peralta Theater, as there have been in other recent years.

The alley parade wound through downtown past several traditional altars, and included at least three bands, several dance groups, costumed stilt walkers, and mobile sculptures. As is traditional, families with children were in the majority. It’s my favorite part of this night: seeing multiple generational families in costume enjoying our city and one another!

The callejoneada returned to the Plazuela Machado where several stages were set up with live entertainment till the wee hours. There seemed to be a lower percentage of costumed revelers this year, but the hundreds who dressed upped the game and looked fantastic. Local makeup artists outdid themselves with creativity and color.

New this year was that the parade began at the Plaza República, winding the three blocks to the Machado and then beyond. It gave a bit more breathing room to the official participants before being bombarded with the thousands of spectators who joined in from the Plazuela.

Also new this year were official catrinas that were sponsored, namely, four or so of them sponsored by our beloved Venados baseball team. While they were gorgeous, and this was very cool, it added a commercial element to our traditional alley-winding that I found rather sad.

Sadder still was that for the first time in many years our local Pacífico brewery was apparently not a sponsor. Not only were there no kegs in sight, ruining a joyous local tradition of people handing up their cups, but Indio beer was served in cans, by gruff people lacking the usual joy! Finally, first we lost our traditional donkey cart, which was understandable, but this year we had tuk-tuks! How in the world is that traditional to this part of the world? The beer fiasco was perhaps the most epic fail of the evening, as complaints were heard far and wide over how kodo (cheap) the new administration was; the lines for Pacífico at the Kioskos went nearly around the block, with people choosing to purchase their beer.

Another disappointment was the fact that the organizers have discovered cheap Chinese imports from the likes of Waldo and Sanfri. We were treated to mass-produced skeleton Halloween costumes rather than the gorgeous handmade garments we are so used to, and numerous inflatable plastic decorations and cardboard skulls were to be seen on the stages and posts of the Plazuela, in contrast to the beautiful handmade papier maché artwork from our local art school. I pray this error will not be repeated. Mazatlán’s art scene deserves way better!

The callejoneada for Day of the Dead this year was more Carnaval-like, with dance troops performing routines that lent themselves more appropriate to Fat Tuesday than to Day of the Dead, and one of the wheeled calacas/skeletons lit with lights in a similar manner to a carroza/float in the Carnaval parade. As is usual we did have Carnavál royalty participate. I can vouch that those gorgeous women even look good dead! 😉

My favorite costume was that of my friend Linette: the death of Lady Liberty. While I hope and pray for my birth nation that it is not true, her costume rang too close to home; I appreciated its poignancy.


Every year we seem to attract more people to this incredible event. It has outgrown the Plaza Machado and especially this year spillover could be seen in Olas Altas and beyond. An important recommendation for next year is to raise the stages higher. With so many people it is nearly impossible for anyone beyond the second row of standing spectators to see what’s going on on stage.

Every restaurant in the Plaza and along the parade route seemed to be sold out. Our group stayed to cenar/eat a late dinner, and when we left about 1:30 am the Plaza was still full of energy. I so enjoy watching how vociferously death sings in the late evening on the Plazuela after the callejoneada.

Day of the Dead remains one of the highlights of Mazatlán’s local cultural scene. It is a jewel in Mexico’s holiday offerings; not the traditional celebrations of Oaxaca or Janitzio, but full of spirit and reflecting our local culture. It is my true hope that some of the missteps this year are due to the fact that the new administration just took over the day before and thus had little time to prepare.

Kudos to the maestros and artists who contributed! Mazatlán is incredibly blessed with your talents and generosity! Day of the Dead in Mazatlán, as Carnavál, is truly a festival of the people!



Cross-Continental Bicyclists Sarah and Jacques Visit Mazatlán

We met Sarah and Jacques on Day of the Dead. They were just packing up their bikes, as you can see. They had left Sarah’s home of Vancouver Island, Canada in July, bicycling south along the coast for four months. Then they hit Mazatlán.

“Soooooo much nicer than Baja,” they gushed to us. “We’ve ended up spending three weeks here, our longest stop yet. We have to get going again or we’ll never get going.”

Thus we met two additional interesting people who love this port of ours.

“We stayed here in our friend’s house,” Jacques explained as Sarah locked up. “We loved being here. We had two weeks of ‘Mazatlán,’ and then this last week things changed completely. The Northerners started arriving. It’s like there are two Mazatláns: the summer and the winter version.”

They are planning to pedal their way south to Argentina. I asked how long of a trip they are planning, but it sounds pretty open-ended. They have their whole lives ahead of them, they told me.

“Did you enjoy Day of the Dead festivities here,” I asked. “Did you join in the callejoneada last night?”

“Oh, yeah, it was awesome,” they told me. “It is cool, too, how it’s the extranjeros keeping the Mexican culture alive—artwork, dressing up…” Fascinating to hear a passer-through perspective.

If you’d like to follow their journey, their blog is at We very much wish them many wonderful adventures, much joy, insight, health and safety, on their journey!

Día de los Muertos en Mazatlán/Day of the Dead in Mazatlán

Several of you have asked me to post information about Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebrations here in Mazatlán. This holiday is one of our favorites, and we’d love for you to enjoy it as much as we do!

Day of the Dead in Mazatlán is a happy, festive celebration that takes place November 1 and 2 — All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days in the Christian (particularly Roman Catholic) religious calendar.

The tradition goes back prior to the import (or imposition) of Christianity to the New World. As in other indigenous belief systems around the world from Asia to Africa to Latin America, Mazatlecos believe that once a year departed family members and friends come back to this world to visit their family and friends. And who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a once a year opportunity to party again with departed loved ones?!


Bakeries, Candy Stores and Artesanía Shops

One of the first signs that Day of the Dead is approaching is that you begin to see pan de muerto, bread of the dead, in the bakeries. These loaves of bread are often put on a family’s altar and then eaten after the ancestors have had their fill. You will also see calaveras or skulls made of sugar and amaranth, decorated with brightly colored frosting, for sale in the bakeries and candy stores. If you are visiting Mazatlán during the end of October or first days of November, be sure to stop in a bakery or two, and definitely visit a traditional candy store.

Also be sure to visit one of the many handicraft shops around town, as you will find wonderful Day of the Dead souvenirs, including traditional ceramic Katrinas and calaveras, skeletons representing people working in all sorts of different professions and engaging in sports and other hobbies. You’ll find lots of souvenirs to take home. Between the bakeries, candy stores, handicraft shops and even the fabric stores, you will find loads of wonderful gifts to take home.



Next you will begin to see altares or family altars. Many families put together an altar to welcome back their departed loved ones.

On a table or a multi-tiered piling of crates, they put out photos of loved ones along with articles that belonged to them, cempasúchitl (marigold) flowers, tissue paper flowers, salt, candles, and water. Ofrendas or offerings of favorite foods or drink and items from favorite pastimes are also set out to entice the dead to stop in and stay a while.

There is an art to making an altar, and here in Mazatlán you will see everything from charmingly simple to very elaborate altars. Some years the Mayor’s Office or Secretary of Tourism have put out a map of the altars available for public viewing (usually the ones that will be visited during the callejoneada, below), so it’s worthwhile to check if a map’s available. If not, walking around the streets of historic downtown is definitely worth an afternoon or evening.

If you are in the Golden Zone, you will find that many hotels and other businesses set up altars, often for famous people that have passed on (i.e. Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe). Many of the altars are really heartwarming, showing incredible love and attention to detail.


The Callejoneada Parade, Evening of November 1st

Unlike celebrations with lengthier histories and more solemnic processions such as those in Michoacán or Oaxaca, Mazatlán’s Day of the Dead celebrations involve donkeys that pull gigantic kegs of free beer through the streets of downtown.

This callejoneada, a parade through the narrow streets of the Centro Histórico, takes place from about 6:30 pm on the evening of November 1st. It begins and ends in the Plazuela Machado, and afterwards families tend to hang out for cena or late night supper. Before the callejoneada there is frequently a performance event in the Angela Peralta theater. Many years there have also been public performances in the Plazuela Machado after the parade. Check schedulesor ask around to be sure what’s on when you’re here.

The white Katrina accompanies
children to the afterlife.
The black Katrina accompanies
adults to the afterlife.

The callejoneada is, for us, a not-to-be-missed event. Our very talented young dancers and actors from the Centro Municipal de Artedress in costumes.

Live bands join in.

Many in the crowd also wear skull masks or skeleton costumes, and a group of hundreds if not more than a thousand dances and sings its way through the streets of downtown, visiting the various altars to help the white and black Katrinas accompany the souls of those who have left this life during the year safely to the afterlife. Do not miss the callejoneada!

Wear comfortable shoes, do not hesitate to push your way up to the donkey cart for some free beer (wear clothes that you won’t mind having beer spilled on), have your camera set to night action mode, and be prepared to enjoy!

Perhaps you’d like to see a short video clip of the Day of the Dead parade?



Be sure to visit the municipal cemetery or another, smaller one during Day of the Dead.

Most families will visit the graves of their ancestors to clean the gravesite, to set out fresh flowers, and, often, they take along a picnic, hire a band, and party a bit, right there in the cemetery!

While the children play, grandparents, uncles and aunties, Mom and Dad share a beer, eat some lunch, and reminisce about the dearly departed. I trust someone does this on my behalf some day!

As you approach the cemetery you will see flower shops and impromptu vendors selling all sorts of gorgeous flowers and decorations. Entering the cemetery, you will often see bands wandering around, hoping to be hired. Also, many workers are available to help tend to a tombstone, or simply carry water. It’s well worth a couple of hours. Most years we have been invited by friends to join their celebrations, though the first year we were here strangers invited us to join them.


“Roasting” the Living: Newspapers and School Fairs

Another tradition this time of year is to celebrate the living as if they were dead. I believe this somehow reminds us all that we are on a one-way path through life.

The first time I witnessed this was at my son’s school. We walked in to find fake gravestones lining the walkways, with the names of (living!) teachers on the headstones! Each headstone contained a calavera or funny poem about the teacher. You will see many of these calavera poems in the newspaper, written about major politicians or celebrities in the news.

Friends will have the names of their (living) friends put on one of the sugar skulls, so that the friends can “eat their own death.” To someone not familiar with these practices it can seem a bit eerie, but it’s all done in good humor and filled with affection. One year at our son’s school they did “living altars,” where the kids acted out famous dead people.



391770_372728722804454_1129221583_nThe Catholic diocese here tends to encourage people to celebrate Day of the Dead and very much discourages any celebration of Halloween, often referring to it as a witch’s or devil’s holiday. In Mazatlán, however, you will see children dress up in costumes and go trick or treating at the Gran Plaza or within El Cid residential development, usually on the evening of October 31.

Young adults, from junior high school on up, hold costume parties for Halloween.

Most of the dance clubs also hold Halloween parties. You’ll also see a lot of very sexily costumed young people waiting in line outside the clubs to celebrate a version of Halloween that, in my day, had not yet been invented 😉

We do hope you’ll enjoy Day of the Dead (and Halloween), Mazatlán style!

Easter Procession in Santa Clara del Cobre

Santa Clara is about an hour’s drive south of Morelia, just south of Patzcuaro. We had intended to spend Easter Sunday here in the city, but after attending Mass at the cathedral, we felt small town life calling us (as usual). We wanted to see copper making, since I grew up with it in Arizona, so off we went.

What a charming small town! I absolutely fell in love with the young boys, ages 3-8 or so, who were dressed as typical Michoacán viejitos for the Easter procession. More on them later.

One of the two main churches in town is home to Jesus of the Resurrection, so Easter Sunday is, luckily for us, a big feast day. Later in this post you’ll see video footage of the very community-engaged, charming Easter procession.

We noticed a sign outside the church here that we found so interesting we just had to take a photo of it, left.

Also, I made a new girlfriend, who was more than happy to pose for a photo for me.

When we arrived in town, about 11:00 am, people were just putting the finishing touches on some decorations. Those included assembling beautiful red-and-white-arches in the center of the street, in front of each of the barrios of Santa Clara del Cobre.

When we asked what they were preparing for, we were told there was going to be a procession. Where? When? “Right here. Ahorita.” Well, we’ve lived here long enough to know that ahorita doesn’t mean “right now” in any gringo sense of that word. So, we knew we had time to check out the town.

The decorations also included crepe paper flowers and streamers in front of nearly every house in town. It was truly a community event, and involved all ages.

We saw a long line in front of the newer church, the one that’s in the plaza. We figured it had something to do with Easter.

Approaching, we saw the priest signing a booklet for the children in line. Well, that looked all too familiar! In asking, a mother told us that the children who want to receive First Communion this spring had to attend the 9 o’clock Mass on Easter, and they had to have the priest sign their booklets attesting to that fact. Gotta love legalism.

We figured the procession would start after the noon Mass, so we took a look through what appeared to be the old original church. It was gorgeous! Everything here in town was so well cared for.

There were quite a few braids of human hair pinned to the cloth behind the crucifix, along with quite a few small milagros.

Every building was occupied, every curb was maintained, there were sidewalks and people sweep them on a daily basis. It was terrific to see.

Beside the old church was what seemed to be a community center. There were obvious party preparations going on, and during the mid-day people kept streaming in with food, food and more food. And music too, of course.

Still no sign of a procession to begin ahorita, we walked through the copper fair that was going on in the main plaza. There we met Pito Pérez, reincarnated, selling DVDs of movies about his life.

Coming back to the other side of the plaza, we saw that the crowd was gathering to view the procession, so we took our place on a curb.

Once the fireworks launchers were in place, we knew it was time. They used really handy iron stands to launch 6-14 bottle rockets in a row. I think Mazatlán needs these!

The video above is about three minutes of the procession. It lasted a good 90 minutes or more. It involved so many people, as we’ve witnessed in so many other small Mexican towns during Semana Santa. It included a Santo statue from each of the barrios of the town, I believe, plus the town patron, the Jesus of the Resurrection. This is not a performance so much as a community-wide event, as are our beloved Carnavál parades in Mazatlán.

The most charming part of the parade, for me, were the children dressed up as typical Michoacán viejitos, or old people. Normally this is a folk dance, but this time they merely walked in the parade. By the end they were pretty hot and tired.

After the procession I saw a group of four boys sitting in the plaza. They were obviously the viejito boys, though they had removed their hats and masks, and several of them had even taken off their zarapes, because they were hot and tired. They looked so cute. I asked them if I could take their photo, so that of course ruined the spontaneity of the moment. But, marvelously, they called all their friends over, they all got completely re-costumed, and they gleefully posed for me to take their photo. I will post this blog to a few town sites, in hopes that the kids might see themselves. Thank you, niños!

Afterwards people seemed to go into the community center to eat, and to take home the leaves from the arches, and many of them also took home large sugar cane stalks. We hadn’t seen those till now, so I’m not exactly sure where they came from.

Thank you, Santa Clara del Cobre!!! We were very blessed to be able to share our Easter Sunday with you! We appreciate you including us in your festivities.

Carnaval Parade Preparations

Carnavál de Mazatlán is such a major community event. I love how it brings people together. And not just from Mazatlán and the surrounding communities, but it brings in people from all over Mexico (this year we met a great 80-piece band from Puebla, for example) and Latin America (the visiting queens).

The best-kept secret of Carnavál, however, is the PRE-parade, just prior to the second parade. That’s when all the dancers, royalty and performers have already paraded once. They have had their coronations, things are winding down. They are relaxed, happy. They know what they’re doing, they know what to expect.

And, they are lined up along the malecón, getting dressed, putting on makeup, eating something to tide them over for the next few hours of dancing. They are laughing and talking, relaxing, and posing for the tourists. It has honestly become one of my absolute favorite Carnavál activities, though of course I have lots of “favorites” this time of year!

Below is a video I put together tonight, highlighting some of what happened during pre-parade today. I hope you will get a taste of why I love the pre-parade. Thanks for viewing!