Leaving Chapala, I decided I would make my way toward Mexico City. But, rather than heading direct to the capital, I would stop for three days in each of several smaller cities along the way. Given that the day of the dead celebrations were approaching, I asked around and was told that the best place to see the celebrations is in the state of Michoacán. So, I headed to Morelia, the colonial capital of Michoacán, to ride out the festivities.
Like so many spots in central Mexico, the colonial architecture is well preserved. Yes, this is the local Burger King.
Evidence of the impending Day of the Dead were all over the place. The vibrant orange color and strong scent of the Marigold flowers are used to attract the spirits of the deceased to their altars. It’s believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration.
On the night of the Dead, my host invited me along with some friends to tour the smaller towns nearby where you can truly see the festivities in their purest form. These pictures were taken in Patzcuaro.
We also strolled through the nearby town of the utterly unpronouncable "Tzintzuntzan"
Families construct elaborate altars in the cemetery, making offerings to their loved ones (coca-cola and tequila seem to be the most popular items) so that they'll be enticed back to our world for the night. Many families spend the whole night in the cemetery, playing music on boomboxes, some even hiring mariachi bands to serenade the deceased.
From Patzcuaro, we headed to the docks, from which you can take a 20-minute boat ride to the island of Janitzio.
The island of Janitzio as seen from the boat. You can see the monument to Morelos in the distance.
On the night of the Dead, the island of Janitzio becomes the go-to destination for the young crowd. You first pass through a human traffic jam in a cemetery full of altars and families of the deceased. You then ascend a long series of stairs to reach the peak of the island, a climb whose difficulty depends largely on the number of cervezas you’ve consumed up to that point.
This is a 40-meter-high statue of José Maria Morelos, one of Mexico’s great hero’s of the revolution and for whom Morelia is named. On this night the air is filled with drinking, dancing, and a lot of Reggaetón.
I ate breakfast in the same restaurant each morning of my three-day stay in Morelia. The restaurant is called “Super Cochinitas” and the waitresses there are fantastic (I miss you Vale and Reggie!). In the bottom right photo, Miguel Hidalgo and Jose Morelos are stopping by to enjoy some cochinita pibil. The message on their right translates to “Those who leave a tip will go to Heaven”.