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Dia De Los Muertos: Cabo San Lucas Style

My family and I had the opportunity to come to Cabo San Lucas for a vacation at the end of October.  During that trip, we experienced Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, the way Cabo San Lucas celebrates.  

Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican celebration when families gather together to honor loved ones who have passed away by building elaborate altars (ofrenda.) Although a bit macabre, the holiday is celebrated in colorful and joyful parties and events around the country.

In Cabo San Lucas, the altars go up right before the celebration begins.  Some are designed with dyed rice and have intricate designs.  Others have multi-level shelves to celebrate more than one relative.  The event takes place mostly at the Marina, with food vendors, crafters, baked goods, light-up toys for the kids, and cotton candy trees.  Mexican hot chocolate and coffees are for sale and drinks made from fruits like pineapple, mango, banana, and jamaica. The day ends with a boat parade and fireworks.

The celebration has its roots in Mesoamerican roots, including Aztec, Toltecas, Tlaxcallec, Chichimec and Tepaneca cultures.  All honored sacrificial deaths with feedings to the gods.  Skill racks, called tzompantli, displayed rows of human skulls.  This is one of the ways that the skull became to be iconic in Dia de Los Muertos.  Spanish colonists integrated All Saints Day and All Souls Day which is why Christian icons are also represented.

The altar decorations have multiple meanings.  First, they represent the four main elements of nature: fire, wind, water, and earth. For fire, the altars are decorated with candles, one for each departed and a few for forgotten relatives and to help guide the spirits home.  For wind, punched paper flags flutter in the breeze, telling us that the spirits have arrived.  For water, small glasses of water are set out to quench the thirst of the spirits after their long journey.  For earth, favorite family dishes, pan de Muertos, mole, fruit, and chocolate are set out.  For departed children, which is celebrated on November 1, toys and sugar skulls decorated with the child's name are set on shelves.

Other items that may appear are photos of the deceased loved ones, Christian icons such as a cross or statues of the Virgin Mary, copal, an incense that helps guide the spirit home, marigolds, whose strong scent attracts the spirits and whose petals are used to make a pathway to the altar.  Sometimes you will see a La Calavera Catrina etching that was made popular by Jose Guadalupe Posada.  He was poking fun at the Mexicans who were combining the ancient custom with European beliefs. A political cartoon of sorts now provides a healthy amount of social and political commentary for the Mexican community.

Seeing clothing in many of the tourist shops, I decided to go to the event in a traditional dress.  Black with many hand-embroidered flowers, I felt I was dressed tastefully and respectfully for the event. This is a religious holiday for the Mexican people, and I wanted to treat it as such.

Have you celebrated Dia de Los Muertos?  I'd love to hear your stories!

Would you like to comment?

  1. So cool. I am in Texas so this is a big thing. We haven't done any festivals yet but maybe one day!

  2. What a cool celebration. I remember learning a bit about this in high school Spanish class.

  3. My kids have learned so much about this because they're both in a dual language program at school. It's certainly a wonderful tradition/celebration.

  4. I'm slightly jealous that you got to visit Cabo! Thanks to Covid, I've been stuck in Denmark since spring of 2020 :(

  5. Richelle Milar7:25 AM

    Looks like your really had a great time on your trip! That is a really nice way to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos.

  6. wow! It's such a unique ans special way to celebrate those who died by building altars. Love to explore the other cultures!

  7. It must be really pretty to see the different decorations. The dyed rice patterns are pretty.


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