The Disney film Coco put the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos on the radar of many more people than ever before. The holiday is a joyful celebration of family and “ancestors.” All over the Latin American world families honor their dearly departed on “ofrendas” (altars) so they can be remembered. Family members pass down stories of their lives to the younger generations and reminisce. Most towns and cities do some sort of parade and/or festival to honor the dead, with colorful costumes and music to accompany the holiday. Here are a few of our favorite celebrations across Mexico and the U.S.
Most international visitors looking for the quintessential Dia de los Muertos celebration head for Oaxaca. There’s a loosely connected series of celebrations from October 31 to November 2. Various neighborhoods mount their own comparsas (processions) through the streets and in cemeteries all over the city. For the most authentic experience, Oaxaca can’t be beat!
Olvera Street, Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles, with it’s huge Mexican-American population has a number of great Dia de los Muertos celebrations. The granddaddy of them all (and most traditional) is downtown on Olvera Street. This year, there will be a nightly procession at 7pm from October 25-November 2, 2021. Come by for this and other family-friendly activities such as face painting, theatrical performances and community altars on display. Masks are required.
The town of Patzcuaro sits on Lake Patzcuaro, which is a spooky backdrop in which to celebrate Day of the Dead. Traditionally, November 1st is the day on which families light up their family plots with candlelight celebrations and tributes. There are contests for the best ofrendas and the entire town turns out. The island of Janitzio sits in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro and its celebration attracts thousands of visitors for Dia de los Muertos every year.
San Antonio, TX
Latin American culture looms large in San Antonio, and the Dia de los Muertos celebration here is spirited and infectious. The La Villita Historic Arts District is the center of Mexican culture, and will be the spiritual center of the celebrations. During the River Walk Parade, calveras (skulls) designed by local artists, puppets, and musicians in costume will be on full display. Altars will be the centerpiece as they process along the River Walk. Be there on Friday, October 29!
New Orleans, Louisiana
The New Orleans Day of the Dead celebrations center around the Aztec goddess of agave. Agave is the primary ingredient in tequila, so naturally the Big Easy takes that festive angle. The yearly procession is scheduled for November 2 and will include the return of “Catrina,” a giant skeleton who is also the parade’s mascot. The parade kicks off at the corner of North Villerie and Marigny streets at 7:15 p.m. and will follow Marigny Street to St. Claude Avenue and turn left. At St. Roch Avenue, the parade will turn left again and make its way to the St. Roch Cemetery. Here, additional ceremonies and performances will take place.
Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City is not to be outdone by the smaller, more regional celebrations. In recent years Mexico City has thrown its hat into the ring and mounted more colorful celebrations. This year, the main parade will start at the Zocalo (Main Square) at noon on Sunday, October 31 and will follow a route that ends at the Camp Marte.
Whether you plan to attend a more local celebration in your hometown or travel further afield, we would love to hear from you. Let us know what other Dia de los Muertos celebrations are happening in your neck of the woods. The comment section is open!