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Mexican Festivals; are they for you?

Categories: Latin America

Mexico is an outstandingly diverse country with lots of festivals. Many feel that they are just a time to have a party, while some feel that the festivals are a great opportunity to learn more about the people and their history and still others are scared to be in attendance during these festivals, simply because of the unknown. There are literally 1000s of festivals celebrated by different towns, all over different states in Mexico.

Here are a few of the most popular Mexican festivals so you are able to make up your own mind:

Dia de Independencia
Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated on the 16th of September. This was the day in 1810 when Father Miguel Hidalgo urged Mexicans to rise up against the Spanish-born ruling class. Mexico celebrates its independence with parades, music and fireworks. Brass bands frequently fill the streets and governors re-enact “El Grito,” the famous cry for freedom. People set towers of braided willow and palm stalks on fire to light the night, as well as firecrackers and sparklers. Of course, the celebration wouldn’t be complete without a spread of great food.

Dia de Nuestra Señora Guadalupe
Celebrating the patron saint of Mexico on the 9th or 12th of December. This is a popular catholic festivity that celebrates when a man encountered the Virgin Mary. The Virgin of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico. She is depicted with brown skin, an angel and moon at her feet and rays of sunlight that encircle her. According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared to an man named Juan Diego on Dec. 9, 1531. The Virgin asked that a shrine be built in her name where she appeared, on Tepeyac Hill. Juan Diego told the bishop about the apparition, but he didn’t believe him and demanded a sign before he would approve construction of such a shrine.

On Dec. 12, the Virgin reappeared to Juan Diego and ordered him to collect roses in cloak. Juan took the roses to the bishop and when he opened his cloak, dozens of roses fell to the floor and revealed the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe imprinted on the inside. The cloak with the image is on display in the Basilica de Guadalupe. Dec 12th is now a national holiday and thousands gather each year at Mexico City’s Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe to celebrate the patron saint’s birthday. Over 800,000 people gather around the Basilica and bring candles and offerings to honor her. They also sing the famed “Las Mañanitas.”

Dia de la Raza – The Day of the Race
Celebrated on the 12th of October, Día de la Raza can be a little controversial and has come to be seen by indigenous activists throughout Latin America as a counter to Columbus Day. A celebration of the native races and cultures and of the resistance against the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. Ethnic groups, historians, sociologists, defenders of human rights and many others all over the world seriously question the prevailing views of yesterday with regard to how Columbus behaved and what he accomplished. October 12th provides an excellent opportunity for reflection, not on Columbus the man, but the actions and influences of all the people who came after him, who melded their European culture with the indigenous cultures and, with difficulty, blood and years of battle, misunderstandings and treachery, have created the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society that is now celebrate with the Día de la Raza. It’s not all serious though, you will also enjoy the food and the parades.

Cinco de Mayo
Celebrated on May 5th every year, to remember the Mexican victory over France at the Battle of Puebla, in 1862. A small Mexican army under the command of Ignacio Zaragoza defeated a larger French contingent of over 8,000 who hadn’t been defeated in 50 years, making it a classic David-over-Goliath victory! It is celebrated with live music, ballet folkloric dancers and barbecue. There’s also a giant party at the Goliad Fairgrounds. It’s become a way to celebrate pride in the community both in the country and for Mexican living abroad. In Puebla, historical re-enactments, parades, and meals take place to commemorate the battle. Parade participants dress as French and Mexican soldiers to re-enact the battle. Every year the city also hosts the Festival Internacional de Puebla, which gathers national and international artists, traditional musicians and dancers. Also to be enjoyed is the Festival Internacional del Mole, with an emphasis on the city’s iconic mole poblano meal.

But probably the most well known celebration outside of Mexico is ‘Dia de los Muertos’ or ‘Day of the Dead’.

Most of us when we see the candy skull heads, skeletons that are dressed in intricate costumes, have wondered ‘hmm why is that culture so morbid’?
But there actually isn’t anything morbid about this celebration that falls on the 1st and 2nd of November. It’s an absolutely fascinating celebration if you can catch it.

It is believed that, at midnight on the 31st of October the gates of heaven are opened for the spirits of children that have been lost, and for 24 hours they are reunited with their loved ones. The same thing happens the next midnight for the spirits of the adults that have perished. Then generally on the afternoon of the 2nd, families make their way to cemeteries to give the deceased their favourite food and drinks, sit with them and reminisce with their favourite music.

The bright colours that you see, are believed to represent the following:

Purple: pain, suffering, mourning and grief
Pink: celebration
White: purity and hope
Orange: sun
Red: the blood of life
Yellow: marigolds which symbolize death. They are used to make a trail
so that the spirits can see the path to their altars.

And what about Mexico’s ‘Grande Dame of Death’? She is ‘La Catrina’.
Originally an etching by a Mexican printmaker and cartoon illustrator (Jose Guadelupe Posada). She is shown off as a satirical portrait of those Mexican natives who were aspiring to adopt European aristocratical traditions. Hence her very fancy dresses and hats. She has become somewhat of an icon for these celebrations!

If you can make it to Mexico during these dates, you will be very glad you made the effort. Locals are very welcoming and actually love to share their traditions with others, provided respectful is shown. You will will then understand just exactly what ‘Day of the Dead’ means to this family oriented and loving culture! Check out our Fall Hello Mexico! tour that gets you there just in time. We hope that you have a broader view of a few of the Mexican Festivals that grab the attention and imaginations of so many from around the world.