Preparing for the Day of the Dead – public skeleton sculpture

In late October of 1997 I had the pleasure to stay for a week in Mexico D.F and Merida / Yucatan. What I did not know this is the time when Mexicans prepare themselves for the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). Especially in Merida I was dazzled to see shops full of plastic skeletons of any kind, souvenirs, decoration and weird disguise all related to the topic of death. This reminded me all of European carnival however with a different purpose and a more strange direction.

Central place with nice green shadows and town hall at Merida

Sweet death – delicious sugar coffins in a shop

Prior to Spanish colonization in the 16th century, the celebration of death took place at the beginning of summer. And the origins of the modern Mexican holiday  can be traced back to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival. Gradually, it was associated with October 31, November 1, and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christianity, nowadays legal holidays to remember friends and family members who have died.

View on Chichen Itza Castle with really steep steps

View from Chichen Itza Castle on the jungle of Yucatan

Today the view from the old temples and buildings at Chichen Itza just reveals a total wilderness and endless rainforest which more than thousand years ago meant the homeland for the Maya, a loose alliance of city-states in southern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. You do not see anymore the cities, roads, reservoirs, channels or terraced fields being swallowed again by a thick jungle.

Around the year 900 the Maya quickly and more mysteriously left the country and vanished most probably due to a climate change, little food and too much fighting. Estimations say that the population dropped around 90 % during this time. At a few locations, such as Chichen Itza, the Maya still lived furtheron, though they would never gain their former grandness.

Cryptical message and petroglyphs from the past



    • Just some impressions picked up in some free minutes during a business trip by mid of October when the Mexican people are preparing for the Days of the Dead to come. Temperatures are anyway quite nice in this season for travelling!


  1. That’s pretty amazing, i had no idea. I only know about the Indonesian ritual, where they dig up their ancestors and dress them up, which i thought was quite a unique and weird ritual.

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    • Violation of graves usually being punished in Christian dominated countries, so the here shown skeleton sculpture is a manmade sculpture and not a skeleton from a grave. I only know one Catholic church in Italy where real skulls and bones
      have been used for decorating the complete interior, also very weird. In Mexico they build shrines for the deceased, decorate the graves in a colorful way and stay also at the burial places for a real feast with music and eating during these Days of the Dead by end of October. So death and the dead are a real part of life.


      • That’s probably a nice thing to do and not so weird – weird is a wrong word though as its just subjective, what’s weird to me is perfectly normal for them.
        The decorating of graves and music could be read as a way to detach the souls and let them live happily wherever they are.
        Church decoration with real skull and bones is “weird” though 😛

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