In many cultures death is a taboo subject  a word that evokes sorrow and loss. In Mexico this is not the case as every year from October 31st – November 2nd  the people turn death on its head and celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. 

November 1st All Saints Day remembers deceased children (known as little angels), November 2nd All Souls Day remembers the departed adults.

Day of the Dead Alter

To an outsider celebrations may be seen as macabre, but in Mexico death is considered to be a part of life. It is a festive and thoughtful time, families reunite at homes and graves to share memories of loved ones and mock the spectre of death with costume, dance and song.


Day of the Dead Alter and Decorations

The origins can be traced back to Catholic pageantry and Aztec traditions. Though celebrations vary from region to region the most traditional take place in the town of Patzcuaro home of the Purepecha tribe, a colonial city in the state of Michoacan, in the western central highlands and at Island of Jatizio which lies in the middle of Lake Patzcuaro.

Day of the Dead Alter
Flower sellers
Orange Marigolds used to create elaborate arches
Orange Marigolds
Childs Grave
Cleaning the family graves

Cemeteries become a focal point for the people; they are a hive of activity as families tend to the gravesites.

Tombs are scrubbed, the women folk sweep away the detritus whilst the men and boys paint the vivid stone crossed mausoleum before adorning the tombs with bright orange marigolds.


Cleaning the family graves
Cleaning the family graves
Bread of the Dead
Sugar skulls
Chocolate skulls

There are also displays of skeleton crafts and toys created to decorate homes and graves which depict people from all walks of life, policemen, teachers, barbers and musicians.


Remembering the Dead
Day of the Dead Market

Colourful market stalls line the squares and side streets of the town selling pan de muerto, (bread of the dead), and confectionery.

The old and young gather to share the bittersweet pleasure of exchanging sugar and chocolate skulls baring the names of the departed.




Remembering the Dead

 Family altars are lovingly assembled, each soul represented by a candle and sometimes a photograph of the deceased.
An offering of a favourite drink or snack will be left for each visiting spirit.



Night time vigil at the graveyards
Baskets of food for the souls
Candlelit graves
Night time Vigil
Candlelit graves
Night time Vigil

And finally the peaceful vigil kept through the night as friends and families crowd the cemeteries to await the arrival of their loved ones.

The women pray and men chant through the chilly night air pungent with incense, bathed by candle light.

Each year the spirits return to eat and drink with the living.

Baskets of food for the souls
Night time celebrations

The photographs illustrate how the Mexican people celebrate their rites of communion between the living and the dead, with beauty, caring and humour as the two are intricately entwined. 

They show how family rituals are passed down through the generations and demonstrate how symbols which would seem unsettling at another time and place blend peacefully with the landscape during the festivities of Day of the Dead.






Liz Barry


145 Gwynedd Avenue
Swansea SA1 6LJ,
South Wales, UK

Phone number

00 44 7961892890


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