Day of the Dead: overhyped, overrated & underwhelming. What did I miss?
Replies: 27 - Last Post: Nov 12, 2012 6:09 AM Last Post By: dmhaun
Nov 3, 2012 1:58 PM
Day of the Dead: overhyped, overrated & underwhelming. What did I miss?So what's all the hype about?
We've been in Oaxaca city for the last 3 weeks and by coincidence were here for DoD.
We went to XoXo and the following night to panteon general and found the whole experience to be fairly humdrum. Certainly did not enjoy the feeling of interrupting families' private moments while they were gathering together to welcome back their loved ones. While a bunch of tourists stuck tripods, long lenses and whirring flashes here and there and trampled on freshly dug earth.
As an outsider, it felt awkward. If I were local, I wouldn't want to share that family experience and I'm scratching my head to understand why people are drawn to it like moths to the flame.
I mean beyond sheer curiosity (the camp we sat in) and to an extent the hype on TTMB and elsewhere, why are people drawn back? What do you/they get that we didn't?
Sure, it looks pretty, but beyond that, pretty underwhelming.
The atmosphere in el Centro in the week before was without doubt incredible, but I'm inclined to say that as an experience for a non mexican with no real connections here, visiting cemeteries on DoD is overhyped and overrated... Maybe we just didn't do it right... I don't know.
Edited by: evanscm3
Nov 3, 2012 3:38 PM
1I ts has turned in to a bit of a circus in Oaxaca with the tourists, I think, but understanding the culture, tradition and symbolism to some extent make can make it a significant experience.
Nov 3, 2012 3:58 PM
Nov 3, 2012 4:16 PM
3I always recommend people try to go with someone local if possible and if not, to not intrude.
I think it is interesting to tourists because the Mexican approach to death is not what they are used to. Many tourists come from cultures where death is a sort of taboo, to be ignored if possible, and if not, then approached indirectly and timidly with euphemisms. Being exposed to the Mexican perspective might tend to increase consciousness.
Nov 3, 2012 4:45 PM
4I am so glad you did that enroutesiglo. Given the difficulty of access and language there is little chance in the Huasteca others will intrude to make it a hyped thing. I mean since 5 yrs ago SLP tourism has really tried and hardly anybody has gone to the trouble you did, but you have more facility with language and ease of movement than most. If anybody cares to have a hint of his experiences, here is a video a friend Hugo Mendez of SLP did about Xantolo, the day of the dead in the Huasteca: http://mexitv.com/?p=42
Like many cultural experiences, the more you know about a culture and the closer you are to individuals the more meaningful it is. Day of the Dead is not a spectacle, its a ritual.
Kinda reminds me of the masses of tourists trying to experience a gospel service in Harlem NY. In that case its a service, not a tourist event.
Unless you are willing to research and meet people and try to understand, I agree Evan, its of little value to attend a foreign ritual.
Nov 3, 2012 5:20 PM
5Capitalism! If there is revenue to be made, why not exploit it? Like St Patty's in the USA. The Irish think it's hilarious the way it's celebrated here. The beer companies make a mint that day!
Nov 3, 2012 5:49 PM
6I can't speak for Oaxaca but the experiences we had in Mexico City and Merida during Day of the Dead were terrific. The Zocalo in MC drew locals and tourists alike to a carnival type atmosphere. Food and drink vendors, big crowds and displays etc. In Merida there was a night street parade with people dressed up and horse drawn carriages, dancing, music etc, it was definitely set up for display and celebration with no feelings of intruding. Like someone said above, if you show discretion to things that look like they are private and enjoy the public displays then it is a great time to be around.
Nov 3, 2012 6:55 PM
7I went to the Chamula indigenous town of Romerello. I was one of a very few Gringos many 4. It was a big party with a caravel in the cemetery. They had doors on the graves and the doors were open so the dead could come out. There were a couple of thousand people there drinking pox, beer, and lots of coke. There was mucho good food for sale and being Chamulans they had a market with many different things for sale. Everyone was in a good mood and very friendly. To me it is a very good way to celebrate the life and death of your dead relatives.
Nov 3, 2012 6:57 PM
8I see so many question-askers on this branch inquire about DOTD ”celebrations” and ”festivities”, and it always annoys me. Many people seem to think it is a fake holiday like Cinco de Mayo. To me, DOTD is a solemn observance within families, not a spectator event. I've wandered around DF and Oaxaca city during this time, but would never consider watching families in a cemetary privately remembering their loved ones. Were you expecting a family to invite you to their altar for a shot of Cuervo? I think feeling awkward was the appropriate response.
Nov 3, 2012 8:06 PM
9We went with a guide to the cemetery in San Felipe del Augua, a "suburb" just outside Oaxaca city. There were other gringos there, but no big busloads as we had heard about in Xoxo. My husband and I wandered around and stopped admire the graves, which really were spectacular, and to talk to some of the people. We asked them if they would tell us about their loved ones. We had brought a small photo of my husband's grandmother, who had recently died at age 102, and we talked about how people in the US do not have the same traditions surrounding death, and that is why we are so interested in Day of the Dead. We always asked before taking any pictures of specific graves. Most of the people were very open to talking with us, though I'm sure they were still puzzled why tourists would come to a cemetery. The sight of all the candles, the smell of the marigolds, and the murmur of the people made for an unforgettable night. Wandering around the little food stands and carnival games set up outside the gates of the cemetery was also a neat experience.
Afterwards, we went to a comparsa in San Agustin Etla. This is kind of a wild street party/pageant/parade that goes on for hours and involves a lot of mezcal, loud music, and amazing costumes. We were the only gringos there, and it was quite an experience. Again, people may have been puzzled as to why we would be there, but it did not seem to interfere with the celebration.
Nov 3, 2012 10:43 PM
Nov 4, 2012 2:33 AM
Nov 4, 2012 7:07 AM
12I think there are two different DOD. One is the Mexican family kind of observance with skulls candy and pan and lots of flowers and the other is the original Indigenous type of observance with flowers, food, music. While they are similar there is a difference. The indigenous seems to be a big celebration of life and they didn't seem to mind a few outsiders with cameras. In fact many had there own camera. In the past I have been invited to set with a family. I would take a 6 pack and we would set and drink the beer. I have never been to any DOD except Indigenous type. I go to a different town every year and have always been welcomed by friendly people. I think they like the fact that outsiders are interested in their culture.
Nov 4, 2012 8:03 AM
13Interesting views... #12 is really correct though. There's no point in getting self-righteous about DotD not being this or that: as respondents have noted, it CAN be everything from an intensely private family affair to a raucous celebration of life, and it really just depends on the particular culture and location. I spent it this year in Tancanhuitz and Aquismon, and was able to see a bit of both (including quiet time in family houses as well as some wild and fun comparsas). Sorry that OP had a negative experience, but #6, 7, and 9 all point out different ways of enjoying the holiday without being a public nuisance.
Nov 4, 2012 9:07 AM
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