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Skeletons and skull sculptures grace the streets of Mexico City for Day of the Dead celebrations

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A Calaca is used to keep social distancing measures in Mexico City during Day of the Dead celebrations
A Calaca is used to keep social distancing measures in Mexico City during Day of the Dead celebrations   -   Copyright  CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP or licensors
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Fifty brightly coloured skulls line Reforma Avenue in the Mexican capital to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

The ancient tradition blends Catholic rituals with the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld. It is celebrated throughout Mexico as a way of welcoming those who are no longer with us.

The exhibit was set up by urban art project, Mexicraneos whose creations are aimed at enhancing and celebrating Mexican culture.

Eduardo Verdugo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A sculpture of a skull is displayed on Mexico City's Reforma Avenue during Day of the Dead celebrationsEduardo Verdugo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Mexicraneos hope the exhibit will become part of traditional festivities that are slowly being transformed into a public holiday, instead of the private offerings made at home to honour the dead on November 2nd.

Eduardo Verdugo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
A sculpture of a skull is displayed on Mexico City's Reforma Avenue during Day of the Dead celebrations that runs until 10 November.Eduardo Verdugo/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Elsewhere across the city so-called Calaca -- the figure of a skull or skeleton used for decoration during the Mexican Day of the Dead -- are used to keep social distancing measures.

CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP or licensors
A Calaca is used to keep social distancing measures, at a restaurant in the Coyoacan neighborhood of Mexico City,CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP or licensors

Traditionally, Mexicans adorn altars with photographs of the deceased, marigolds, candy sculls, chocolate coffins, and paper-mâché skeletons - or cartonería. They also offer the dead their favorite food, pastries, tequila and cigarettes.

Cemeteries, public gardens, and houses are decorated with bright orange marigolds, but this year the celebrations have been scaled back to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Marco Ugarte/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Mexican families traditionally flock to local cemeteries to honor their dead relatives as part of Day of the Dead celebrations, but cemeteries will be closed this yearMarco Ugarte/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Day of the Dead plays, such as "La Llorona" or "The Weeping Woman" have also been altered to pay tribute to virus victims.

"La Llorona" traditionally tells the tale of the ghost of a woman who roams waterfront areas mourning her drowned children, is a legend that dates back to Aztec mythology.

PEDRO PARDO/AFP or licensors
A dancer representing a Mexica indigenous man performs in the La Llorona folk play, at the Cuemanco pier in the "chinampas" of Lake Xochimilco in southern Mexico CityPEDRO PARDO/AFP or licensors

"Other countries see us as people who mock Death, but that is not true." says theatre-goer Yahir Sanchez.

" We are quite close to each other and we remember our dead in this way -- visiting the tombs. Many others stay at home because they have the ashes on an altar and that is an option that can also work now."