Mexico City comes alive for Day of Dead parade
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Published: Nov 01, 2021 05:58 PM
An interactive offering dedicated to victims who lost the battle against COVID-19 in Plaza Tolsa in Mexico City, Mexico on Friday Photo: AFP

An interactive offering dedicated to victims who lost the battle against COVID-19 in Plaza Tolsa in Mexico City, Mexico on Friday Photo: AFP

Giant skeletons, colorful costumes, mariachi music and dancers filled downtown Mexico City on Sunday as the Day of the Dead parade returned for the first time since the pandemic began.

Thousands of people, including locals and tourists, lined the route through the capital for a glimpse of the procession, which was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus.

Like many, Yadira Altamirano came with her face painted as "Catrina," a skeletal representation of death that has become a symbol of one of Mexico's most important festivals.

"Last year I wanted to come, but it was canceled," said the 38-year-old Mexican, who has lived in the US since she was a child.

"Now we have our chance," said Altamirano, an enthusiastic practitioner of the Day of the Dead traditions.

"I'm the only one in my family who always puts out an altar, and we always have dinner on November 2 at midnight," she said.

The parade began in the Zocalo, the capital's main square, where city authorities dedicated the event to medical workers on the pandemic frontline, as well as to the victims.

The country of 126 million has an official COVID-19 death toll of more than 288,000 - one of the highest in the world.

But with most adults in the capital now vaccinated against the virus, and daily deaths trending lower, the authorities gave the green light for the parade to go ahead in 2021.

'It feels great' 

"It feels great, although of course with the proper precautions against COVID-19," said Conchis Garcia, 52, who came with his family from the eastern state of Veracruz.

The dancers and floats paid tribute to Mexican culture and tradition, from street food vendors to authors, icons of cinema and the painter Frida Kahlo.

With its bright colors and cartoonish skeleton costumes, the Day of the Dead has become an internationally recognized symbol of Mexican culture.

From November 1-2, people across the country normally deck their homes, streets and relatives' graves with flowers, candles and colorful skulls.

The festival, which in 2003 was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

The street procession is a relatively recent addition to the celebrations. First held in 2016, it was inspired by the opening scene of the 2015 James Bond movie Spectre.

In the movie, the British agent played by Daniel Craig goes after a bad guy through a parade featuring giant skeletons floating among people dancing with their faces painted as skulls. Authorities decided to recreate the procession to boost tourism. In 2020, it was canceled as the government urged people to stay at home to avoid spreading the coronavirus, and many graveyards were shut to prevent crowds from gathering.

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