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Grand Fiesta Americana
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by Michelle da Silva Richmond

There is a very special celebration, which takes place in Mexico every year and we’re planning a memorable event for your family every Friday throughout the month of October to honor it!

This is a country with roots deeply entrenched in ancient Indigenous and colonial Spanish cultures and we’re preparing for the traditional “Dia de los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) festivities, which coincide with Halloween in the US.

While this ritual is celebrated throughout the country, Cancun – with its backdrop of tranquil turquoise waters, warm breezes and soft, sandy beaches – sets the perfect stage on which to honor their variation of “Hanal Pixan,” (Food for the Souls) as the Maya referred to the holiday.

Echoes from the past –

Drawing from time-honored traditions from their forebears, the ritual brings people together to celebrate and honor friends and family members who have passed away.

The ancient peoples of Mexico were obsessed with death, believing that it was necessary to die in order to be born again. To guarantee this rebirth, they set aside two months in which to honor those who had gone before them. The ninth month of their calendar was dedicated to children, the 10th to adults.

The evolution of the indigenous empires was cut short by the Spanish conquest and it wasn’t difficult for the newly arrived priests to persuade the recent converts to shift their months of the dead to a two-day celebration, known as All Saints and All Souls Day. The meshing of pagan and Catholic rituals which resulted, formed an interesting tradition in Mexico which lingers to this day.

This link to the past is long and not always clear but it is almost a sacred tradition. November 1 is set aside for children who have died. November 2 is for adults. On these two days, souls are given “permission” to visit and everyone feels morally obligated to visit the cemetery to honor their dearly departed and “convivir” (spend time) with them and in true Mexican style – it’s a fiesta!

The celebration begins –

Typical Mexican dishes are painstakingly and reverently prepared and are toted – along with several bottles of the preferred drink – to the gravesite. Among the foods presented at the altars, one of the most important traditional meals is the “pib,” a corn cake stuffed with meat and spices cooked in an underground handmade oven.

Tombs are decorated with the flower of the season, the pungent “The tombs are decorated with the flower of the season, the punge” (marigolds, revered by the Maya) and candles and incense are laid around the graves.

Once the stage has been set, the gathering begins around midnight with prayers, ending in the wee hours of the morning with drinking and raucous toasting to the “continued good health” of the deceased.

The highlight of the feast are the small death figures made of marzipan, gruesomely fashioned for the ritual. Skulls with the names of the living etched on them, and skeletons decked out as brides, soccer players, musicians and beggars complete the bizarre scene.

According to ancient tradition, eating these macabre confections is a way of laughing at death and proving that you don’t fear it – a macho act of sorts. Another common way of celebrating is with “calaveras” or witty poems and epitaphs penned for relatives, friends, or celebrities who are still among the living. These written or drawn eulogies were made popular at the turn of the century by Jose Guadalupe Posada, a political satirist. Today they are used mainly to poke fun at friends, or to mock the Grim Reaper.

We invite you to participate –

Our resort will be celebrating the ritual every Friday starting at 7 p.m. Throughout the month of November with a host of special events. Included in the line-up will be a parade of “Hanal Pixan” notables such as the typical “catrinas” (human skeletons) and “alebrijes,” mythical creatures created to drive away evil spirits.

To add to the “spirit” of the event, there will be music and face painting to get everyone in the “mood.”  A variety of Mexican dishes will be prepared to feast our guests – and any “dearly departed” who may happen to show up!

There is a certain magic to this long-standing tradition and we will welcome you and your family to the memorable event. We’ll expect you in our lobby starting at 7 p.m. every Friday, throughout November.