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Dia De Los Muertos In Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico

Robyn dressed as a Catrina on Dia De Los Muertos (November 2, 2022) a traditional way of honouring ones ancestors across Mexican culture. She helped her dad join the ancestral ranks June 1, 2021

Todo Santo’s plaza sits in the centre of town held by the ocean and mountain range like a sweet young child. The celebration of Dia de los Muertos commenced Sunday October 30 with a traditional Mayan ceremony to call in the ancestors and spirits of the elements. Power combined with sophistication and beauty were displayed for locals, tourists and those (like us!) who are simply living here for the long haul. The ceremony holders wore ceremony attire of feathers, ethnic cloths and blew into conch shells as the way of ushering forth the souls of their dearly departed.

A fantastic sight indeed and one the spectators we welcomed into with open hearts. The baby and I were blessed with a smudging ceremony by one such sacred man using the resin of Copal. I noted him saying “You are light, you are beautiful, you are a strong woman, you are free, you are powerful, you are light, you are beautiful, you are a strong woman, you are free you are powerful.” Magic and authenticity are two words that best describe the opening celebrations of Dia de los Muertos in Todos Santos that night. As my children looked on wistfully at the spectacles I felt the ancestors tugging at my heart strings eager and excited for the days ahead!

Above left: An alter in Todos Santos central plaza on Dia De Los Muertos.

Above right: The Howard Family alter to honour their ancestors on Dia De Los Muertos. Traditionally called an oferenda.

Traditionally it is known that on these days the veil between the living and the ancestral worlds becomes thin allowing souls of departed loved ones to once again rejoice in celebration with the living! Ofrendas are created in each home consisting of candles, photos of deceased loved ones, their favourite foods and drinks as well as flowers, (particularly marigolds) and other items of beauty. The photos on the ofrendas are considered ‘tickets’ for the ancestors to come back… Check out the movie ‘Coco’ for a lighthearted exploration of this celebration!

Families go to cemeteries and break bread, drink, listen to music and dance together as they welcome back their ancestors in a ritual of love and joy for life itself! It is with great honour that we call Todos Santos home. Respecting the local customs by learning and joining this vibrant community is a gift.

October 31 touted Halloween celebrations with ‘Trunk or Treat’, a way for people to amass their decorated vehicles and hand candy to kids in costumes at a safe location. We decorated our rental suburbans trunk with sharp teeth and teeny eyes!

November 1 is a day to honour the souls of children who have passed. A local woman shared her alter with me explaining that this was made for the children and that all war and hate in this world comes from children not being loved enough. That we, as parents, have a divine responsibility to love and hold our children in respectful ways so that we may create resilient, peaceful and loving adults. It was a powerful interaction that will stay in my heart.

November 2 was a day of deep reflection and communion with my ancestors. The traditional Dagara ancestral art that Elder Malidoma Somé taught my has propelled the connection to my ancestors ten fold from my meagre beginnings.

The alter para los chicos 'for the children'

Now that I have literally been painted to look as if I were sitting in the ancestral pantheon myself I have a much deeper understanding and respect for Dia De Los Muertos. The artist who painted my face [Jorge Perez/Todos Santos tattoo artist] shared that his people celebrate death and in a way this celebration is to laugh in the face of death. As if to say “haha, you cannot scare me! The ancestors watch over us and I know I will one day be one with them again!”

I love this tradition and awareness that is embedded so intrinsically across this wonderful country of Mexico.

Muchas gracias Todos Santos! Buenos noches mi amor <3 Robyn K. Howard


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