The title means, I wasn't dead, I was just on a holiday. I've been gone for a while and totally disappeared from the world. If it looked like the earth swallowed me and I took a trip to the underworld, is because I did! I went to the greatest city in the world, on the greatest holiday of all. DIA DE MUERTOS!
And it was AMAZING! I've been meaning to make this pilgrimage to my favorite city in the whole word, Mexico City, during one of the greatest holidays for mexicans, Dia de Muertos, the day of the dead, when our ancestors come back from the underworld for a day and enjoy meals and drinks on a colorful feast full of delicious food and colorful altars.
Mexico City hides at it's center the great aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the bellybutton of the aztec empire and the origin of my Mexican heritage, and let me tell you, going all the way to the source of Mexican traditions was very much worth the trip.
The city is already a colorful and vibrant affair, but during the end of October and beginning of November there are marigolds, everywhere you look is decorated with the flowers that represent the link between the living and the dead.
And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. Every nook and cranny that can be decorated with flowers is decorated over the top. We take the tradition really seriously and it makes the world of the living beautiful, so our ancestors will be enticed to come back and stay with us for a day.
And when they arrive on November 2nd, they are dressed with colorful attire that remembers the great Aztecs, with colorful feathers, masks and more. We do not fear death, we revere it and embrace it, and even mock it with cartoony skulls and devils we place in our homes to guide the spirits to us on this amazing day.
At night, half a million people gathered in the central plaza, called the Zocalo, where the greatest Aztec temple was located, next to the most important christian cathedral in the country, and the amalgamation of food, color, smells, noises and the clash of cultures, old and new create a celebration like nothing else in the world.
Then, we have an amazing parade where people dressed as catrinas, living victorian skulls walking around in the city trough the main streets, all together with floats, dancers, music, food and a festive air everywhere you go.
The parade is relatively new tradition in the city, but everyone makes their greatest effort to show off the artisan's skills to create the most amazing paper sculptures, some of them are 4 meters high!
The costumes are amazing, everything is full of color and there were so many things to see, it was hard to keep up! Some of the floats and sculptures get very close to the people to greet us, and they were amazing photo opportunities there to capture the amazing ambiance of the parade.
Every single thing on that day screams MEXICO! all over it, and it's really beautiful to see that our traditions are still going strong, everything made me so happy, it was like being an a surreal dream.
My favorite costume was the one from the corn people, they were made with dried corn leaves and fashioned into elaborate clothes and head dresses, and combined with the face paint, I really loved it! And now I have tons of ideas for upcoming works inspired by everything I saw.
Mexico City is full of surprises that assault your senses in the most pleasant way at every corner. Take the open farmer's markets, for example. They have the freshest fruit and the most delicious vegetables ready for eating right on the stand.
Everything on these markets is organic and locally sourced, and priced so that everyone has access to it, their colors and taste are out of this world and it makes me wish I could be there every day.
On these traditional markets you can get pretty much everything you want, from fresh produce and meats to handmade toys and decorations for your home. They follow the ancient ways of the aztec people and their markets, with the right amount of modernity to keep up with the times.
But they haven't lost their way with the coming of the modern times, there are still tons of tradition on them, where haggling with the sellers is expected, you choose by hand your produce and get it wrapped in newspaper to take home. They really haven't changed much in probably 100 years and I love that.
After the parade, celebration and exploration is not over for me. I went to Coyoacan for another traditional and very personal pilgrimage of mine: The Frida and Diego circuit.
I started at the Frida Kahlo park, where two statues of Frida and Diego greet you on your visit to their home town.
The city has been shaped by time, weather and earthquakes, giving many of the buildings and construction a crooked look right off from Alice in Wonderland.
The park is no exception to this rule. What you see here is the way it naturally looks after many decades of rain, weathering and of course, the ground shifting. They look just like this, it reminds me of the raw power of Mother Nature and how She shapes our world to her own whims and desires.
Strolling tough the park, I found very interesting things, like these tiny sugar skulls on a miniature altar someone built on a windowsill, without the house owners even knowing. They are about a centimeter tall and it made me very happy to see them!
Also, I found a witch's parking! These brooms are for real, they are used by the groundkeepers all over the city to sweep and clean the stone floors and to keep everything beautiful and free of trash. They are a perfect way to keep traditions alive, and the city workers are very efficient using them!
Then, I'm off to the center of it all: Frida's Blue house. I love visiting this place, the house and Frida's artifacts are amazing!
Everything is authentic, they are things that were used by Frida to paint her paintings and they have an aura that it's very difficult to ignore. You can feel her presence all over her studio.
It's just like she's still there, lurking in the shadows and waiting for everyone to go so she can paint again in peace.
But what I really love from this place are the gardens. They are way larger than the ouse and full of ferns, cacti and huge threes that make feel peaceful and quiet.
I love to sit down on a bench and get lost on this beautiful place. It fills my spirit with very much needed inner peace. I love the soothing colors, the scents and the way the walls isolate you from the rushed city outside. It's like being transported to another world.
But probably the crown jewel of my visit to Coyoacan is the Anahuacalli museum. A fortress built by Diego Rivera out of volcanic rock to store his personal collection of prehispanic ceramics and stoneworks.
It is a voyage trough the prehispanic cosmogony, starting from the dark and moody first floor that represents the underworld, to a bright airy terrace where you can see the heavens and the sky.
Just when I thought this place could not be more magical, I was surprised with lighted altars, skulls and paper decorations to make the museum even more incredible.
Perforated paper ceiling decorations and marigolds hanging create an otherworldly experience like no other. It's definitively one of the museums I have ever visited.
It was an incredible experience and something really unique. It's one of my must places to visit whenever I go to Mexico City and I am so glad I did during the Day of The Dead celebration.
I am a museum geek and I love visiting every one I have the opportunity to experience. Next on the list was the museum of Templo Mayor, located in the heart of the city, in the place where the great aztec temple was built. It holds very important pieces like Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess.
It is an impressive 3 meter wide stone carving, found during construction of power lines, believe me, words can't describe the sheer size and power of this feminine goddess.
Something I had to see are these derpy looking stone ceremonial knives. Don't be fooled by their googly eyes and funny teeth. They are deadly sharp and were used for human sacrifices to the sun god. It was an incredible honor to be chosen for this, but I think that if I was under them, I could not keep a straight face, I just love them.
To finish my visit, I pad my respects to Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death. He is depicted as a flayed creature with his liver hanging, a center of emotion and feelings. He comes for you when the time comes and I find this amazing 2 meter ceramic piece incredibly eerie and a fitting testament to the skill in clay working from my ancestors. I hope to use him as an influence on my upcoming work one day.
And what is a trip is complete without enjoying food from other places? I made sure I visited every famous bakery in downtown. And I was not disappointed. The bread is SO DELICIOUS!
Everything is fresh made, amazing ingredients and so much to try out that I did not know where to begin. Bread is my creed, so I was very happy! YUM!
I could go on and on about this trip. It was a beautiful experience and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Now, I must go back to the studio heed the calling of my muse. I will keep on telling you more about this fantastic trip on my next post.
Until then, lots of love from me, DANITA.