Dia de los Muertos in San Miguel de Allende (pre-Covid)

Two years ago in 2019, I was celebrating Dia de los Muertos in the high desert central Mexican town of San Miguel de Allende. This year, however, I find myself sequestered at home since a Covid positive test result found my household. Yep! So, quarantine it is! Nobody is going anywhere to celebrate anything! We are hunkered down and grateful to be vaccinated. I continue to test negative for the time being, but remain at home with no choice but to reminisce about past travels. So here’s to a look back at happy adventures!

For as long as I can remember I had wanted to spend Dia de los Muertos in Mexico to get a sense of the authentic celebration and vibe that accompanies this holiday there. Initially, I had planned this bucket-list trip for 2020 and a milestone birthday celebration, but things fell into place with my travel partners and we decided to do it a year early. Little did I know that the travel gods were doing me a favor. 

After looking at several locations for this cultural experience, including Patzcuaro and Morelia, I finally decided on San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. A World Heritage Unesco site and voted among the world’s most fabulous cities by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine and Travel + Leisure Magazine, I was familiar with the town and had traveled there several times. I have friends who live there whom I always want to visit, and was traveling with other folks who hadn’t been there yet and were motivated to go. I thought it would be a win-win for everyone.

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel

Bring on the party!

Since this adventure was in 2019, the tourist scene was in full swing in SMA. There are a lot of American and Canadian ex-pats and tourists in this town, but the largest percentage of tourists are domestic tourists from within Mexico. This is where Mexicans come to play. 

On November 1st the party volume went way up with the tourists and locals hitting the streets in their costumes. We had a seat with a view at Tostévere, one of my favorite restaurants in town, and were able to confirm that more than a little tequila had been consumed by people parading down the street. 

This duo took it to a professional level!

That same night, one of the streets in the Centro district transformed itself into a display of large scale altars that was magnificent. The vibe was different on this street as people viewed the altars — less festive and more reflective. People really took the time to take it all in.

The following day, on the 2nd, we made our way to the cemetery where there was another kind of party altogether. Stall after stall of vendors selling straw hats, flowers, food, religious symbols, and empty coffee cans painted and ready to use as a pot for the flowers lined the street from both directions leading to the cemetery.  Once inside, there were so many people, families and tourists alike, that it was difficult to move very fast. There were musicians ready to be hired by families to sing at the gravesite of their loved ones who had passed. The local Catholic parish was conducting mass and (for an offering) reading the names of the dead whose families had made the request.

Image credit: Jane Dill, @janedilldesign

Outside of the cemetery, the town was beginning to shift back to its normal rhythm by the afternoon. Still plenty of tourists, but the face painting opportunities were being packed away until next year … or so they thought. Little did any of us know. I am glad to have experienced this celebration in Mexico before the world changed. Looking forward to seeing this wonderful town again when it’s a little quieter, though. Hopefully, that will be sooner than later.

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