11 | DIC | 2019
The traditional Night of the Dead in Michoacán
Night of the Dead is a tradition in Michoacán - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

The traditional Night of the Dead in Michoacán

Samantha Michelle Guzmán
Mexico City
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The Night of the Dead takes place between November 1 and 2 throughout Michoacán's lake region

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Day of the Dead is highly popular among locals and tourists, who join a series of events to celebrate this Mexican tradition with makeup, costumes, food, and music.

Each region has different ways to celebrate Day of the Dead: from the most traditional to the most modern, but without losing the essence of this heritage.

Do you know how to set up a Day of the dead altar?

What is Night of the Dead in Michoacán?
Once a year, the cemetery gets full of yellow and orange with cempasúchil flowers, lighted by candles, taking all over the place. Although there is a lot of people, the environment remains ceremonial. Families talk in low voice and, once in a while, they eat something, but they keep their watch on their dearly departed.

This scene is repeated throughout Michoacán's lake region during Night of the Dead. It takes place between November 1 and 2, as explains Claudia Chávez, Tourism minister of the state.

Have you heard of cempasúchil, the "flower of the dead"?

The tradition is very similar in most states: locals spend the whole night in the cemetery next to the altars decorated with Mexican food, fruit, pan de muerto, flowers, and pictures. On top of the altar, they put an arch covered on flowers that lights the way of the departed. There are petals all over the floor, in pots and in intricate arrangements.



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The most famous vigil takes place on Janitzio island, in Pátzcuaro lake. To get there, a 30-minute boat tour is needed, but you must arrive early. There are traditional dances in the afternoon and many people reserve their place, as explains Claudia Chávez. If this island is the main point in your travel, you will hardly have time to visit other towns. The rides back to land take place all night, but they can be canceled if there is too much fog.

A good alternative, if you want to visit more communities, is Tzintzuntzan. Its cemetery is huge, so there will not be crowds. In addition, its archeological zone represents the ball game. 30 minutes away from Tzintzuntzan is Arocutín, another town worthy of a visit.

Did you know the Xoloitzcuintle, a Mexican dog, will guide you to the underworld?

The most peculiar tradition is in Santa Fe de la Laguna: people do not go to the cemetery, they install the monumental altars in their homes; they can take over a whole room, and they open their homes’ doors to travelers.



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This year, an official app was released to organize your experience in the Night of the Dead. It shows you how to arrive at each destination, travel time, and activities.

Conexión México is one of the tour operators that still has spots to attend the celebration. Its one-day tour (to Janitzio and Tzintzuntzan), it costs MXN $1,190 per person and departs from Mexico City.



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Have you heard of copal, the food of the gods?


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