Located an hour west of Morelia, Michoacan, the quaint colonial town of Patzcuaro is a great destination for experiencing the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. The “Pueblo Magico” sits along Patzcuaro Lake, and is one of many picturesque towns that scatter the lakeside, each with their own peculiar culture and beauty.
The central plaza turns bright orange, adorned with Mexican marigold, emblematic of the holiday. On the streets one can find sugar-based skulls decorated with colors and names, and beautiful artisan crafts, many staying true to the holiday’s theme. The pan de muerto (bread of the dead) is a tasty sugar-powdered pastry served throughout the upcoming weeks.
Dia de los Muertos is a popular Mexican holiday that takes place every 1st and 2nd of November, dating back to pre-Hispanic times. The tradition honors the dead through celebration, decorative altars, and delicious food shared with the deceased at the cemetery.
Declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003, Dia de los Muertos is marked by a variety of themes and symbols. La Catrina is one such character that can be seen from candies to costumes: a skeleton woman dressed in fancy European clothing from early 20th century. Developed by printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada in 1913, he used La Catrina to critique native Mexican women posing as upper-class Europeans, to him abandoning their heritage.
A common symbol throughout the celebration is the altar de muertos (altar for the dead). Not just any altar, this one is used as a medium for the dead to come and dine with their loved ones for the evening. Photographs and personal items of the deceased adorn the colorfully decorated altars, as do flowers, candles, fruit, candies, and plenty to eat.
Festivities also take place on the island of Janitzio located in the middle of Patzcuaro Lake, which can be reached by small ferries that depart from Patzcuaro. To avoid crowds and indulge in the peace of the tradition, opt for some of the nearby towns, no more than an hour drive from one another. Some include Jaracuaro, Ihuatzio, Tzintzuntzan, Puacuaro and Napizaro. Outdoor activities such as tree gliding, ATVs, horseback riding and boating can also be enjoyed by the lake.