Friday, April 15, 2022

Semana Santa is Back

Good Friday Procession, Antigua Guatemala

For the past two years, because of the Covid pandemic, many Latin American countries cut back or eliminated Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations.  This year most of this vivid  pageantry is back on schedule.  

In the United States, Easter observances are subdued and more or less private, interior events, although there is communal worship.  In Mexico and Latin America, observance is more public and enacted rather than being a matter of solely personal devotion.  This brings the events of Holy Week, the time directly leading up to Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, to life. The vivid displays are moving and unforgettable.  

                                              Building Sawdust Carpets, Antigua Guatemala

Procession, Antigua Guatemala

Good Friday Procession, Leon Nicaragua

Sawdust Carpet under construction, Leon Nicaragua

If you are unfamiliar with Semana Santa celebrations, I invite you to explore them through these links:

One of a kind Holy Wednesday tradition rooted in medieval penitential practices: 

The beautiful floral/plant/vegetable displays created for Holy Week:

The beautiful sawdust carpets of Nicaragua and their significance. 

Granada Nicaragua's  picturesque and one of a kind Via Crucis (stations of the cross)  done on Lake Nicaragua in boats, 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Guadalupe is Back


The Feast of Guadalupe, the celebration of the country's patron saint, is a national holiday in Mexico.  Although nearly everyone has heard of Guadalupe, the days that make up her celebration are less known outside of Mexico.  The days right before December 12, the actual  date of the celebration, are filled prayer and activity as Guadalupe pilgrims rush to reach their destinations. Last year along with most other public celebrations, Guadalupe celebrations were 
not permitted and her Mexico City shrine was closed on the holiday.  This year, festivities were back and pilgrims flocked to the Mexico City shrine as well as other places  dedicated to Guadalupe.

I have written about this fascinating, spiritually intense time in Mexico:


Monday, November 8, 2021

Dia de los Muertos was Back- Almost

Dia de los Muerrtos, Oaxaca 

Like the first crocus of spring, Mexico's Dia de los Muertos, cautiously poked its head from the virtual world of 2020.   Many big celebrations such as Mexico City's Parade were back full force.  In other places such as Oaxaca and Patzcuaro some caps on celebration were in place. For instance, in Oaxaca the beautiful and moving observations in cemeteries were allowed.  The comparsas, the massive parades led by groups of musicians and singers, were not permitted.  Celebrations in Patzcuaro were not open to the masses of photographers and tourists who normally flock there. 

Dia de los Muertros, Oaxaca

                                                            Dia de los Muertos, Chiapas
For those of you who are new to this phenomenally beautiful way of reckoning with death
please follow the link below for my introduction to Dia de los Muertos observations throughout Mexico.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Is it Time to Travel Outside the US?


The EU recently decided to welcome back US travelers this summer, if they are vaccinated.   The invitation is enticing, but digging deeper there is a lot of complexity as the following article spells out.

                                                          Oceanfront, Quintana Roo, MX

Having recently traveled to Mexico, I can share my own experiences.  First off I was not traveling there for pleasure; I had property that needed looking after. Plus the area to which I traveled is familiar to me.  Despite this I normally would manage to have a wonderful time there and explore to my heart's content.

This trip felt different. It was still my tropical paradise, the same in many ways, yet different.

Akumal Bay, Akumal MX

                                                        Store entrance, Playa del Carmen, MX

Everywhere there were reminders of the pandemic, like the entrance to the local Sam's Club in near-by Playa de Carmen in the photo above.  Most stores took customers' temperatures as they entered and dispensed hand sanitizer.  Masks were required and many people wore them in the street, as well.  

Businesses were very serious about sticking to guidelines, This included the entrance to the road where the local dive shop is located.  As I drove past the guard, he took my temperature with me sitting in my car and, sprayed my hands with sanitizer and only then let me drive on. The whole transaction was kind of  comical, because the hand sanitizer made no sense given the situation.

I appreciated all of the precautions, but they were all reminders that these were not "normal" times, unless you are talking about the "new normal", which may not be what you are looking for in your travel.

Restaurant, Akumal MX

                                       Unemployed Workers, Playa del Carmen, MX

Apparel offerings included masks.

                                                          Upscale store in Cancun Airport

Then, there was the Covid test required of all travelers re-entering the US.   At least at the time (about a month ago)  being fully-vaccinated  as I had been since January, did not get you off the hook.  Not that the test is any big deal, but a positive test result would have meant being forced to stay in Mexico another ten days.  Visions of being locked in a  quarantine hotel in Cancun for a false positive test flashed in front of my eyes.

Just to be careful,  I did not eat out in the area's wonderful restaurants, but did what I had been doing in the US, take-out.  I was more cautious than many visitors, but I really wanted to get back home and knew that, on occasion,  vaccinated people can test positive. I probably overdid the caution, because plenty of people were out there having fun and they all got back home.

                                                              Take-out, Mexican style

Rulings on testing vaccinated travelers may change as countries open up and promote tourism.  All of this is in media lingo, a fluid situation, and there is much to be sorted out by the powers that be.

Before I would travel abroad, I would find out rules and restrictions in my particular destination.  No one wants to board a long flight and discover everything is closed  when they get there.  There are online resources for this.  For instance, I googled "what is open in Paris now?" and found this website offering complete information the city.
According to this site, many of the iconic destinations in the city are off-limits for right now and I'm sure it is that way in many other place. Doing your homework before booking a trip is essential. After all, who wants to get to the Louvre and find a closed sign?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Drinking, Mexican-Style

                                                                     Ponche Navideño

The time between the Feast of Guadalupe on December 12 and the arrival of the biblical Three Kings on the Feast of Très Reyes (January 6),has evolved into a non-stop alcohol-fueled fiesta known as the Guadalupe-Reyes Marathon.  You can read about this "event'  and its origins at:

If you personally, would like to do some Mexican-style imbibing this holiday season, here are a few recipes to brighten your celebrations.



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Will Guadalupe Be Wearing a Mask?

Normally, the week leading up to December 12, the feast day of Guadalupe, is a beehive of activity in Mexico.  Pilgrims are rushing to her shrine in Mexico City or, where that is not possible, to their home churches.  All must arrive before 12 am the morning for December 12 for the special service dedicated to Guadalupe. 

Many people travel great distances, on foot, by bicycle, motorcycle, car or a combination of these. You can read about this unique and vibrant time in Mexico in this article.

Closed for Business:

                                                        Shrine of Guadalupe, Mexico City, MX

Because of Covid, Holy Week and Dia de los Muertos have been different this year.
Guadaupe's Feast is also going virtual.  In fact, the doors to the Mexico City Shrine of Guadalupe will be closed from December 10-13 to prevent the usual crowds from congregating.   

Since Guadalupe's official shrine will be closed for the holiday, some people are celebrating there on a different date or redefining the meaning of a their pilgrimage there.
 It will be interesting to how Mexicans in other parts of Mexico observe the event.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Dia de los Muertos and the Covid 19 Pandemic

                                                        Market selling items for ofrendas, Oaxaca MX
Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican icon.  The official dates are November 1 and 2, although preparations for the holiday begin earlier in October and in some places, there are observances as late as November 4 or 5. Often, influenced by Halloween, on October 31, people costume and parade publicly and children beg for money and candy.  

The holiday is a blend of pre-hispanic and Roman Catholic beliefs and customs.   Dia de los Muertos is a time when the curtain between the worlds of the living and the dead opens and dead relatives can return to spend time with the living loved ones they left behind. This year, Dia de los Muertos will have a special importance, in view Covid-19 pandemic and the huge number of deaths in Mexico,  As of this writing, over 86,000 people have died from the disease in Mexico.                                         

If Mexico ever needed the comfort that Dia de los Muertos can bring to the bereaved, it is now.Yet, there will be many constraints on observance of the holiday and the normal rituals because of the pandemic.

Typically, there are three levels of observance of Dia de los Muertos in Mexico.  In the home, altars (ofrendas) are made for the dead, with the foods enjoyed by the deceased.  There are also more ofrendas in places like businesses, churches and other public venues. 

                                                            Ofrenda, Oaxaca MX

                                                      Decorated Gravesite, Oaxaca MX 

Then, there is the custom of beautifully decorating graves with traditional flowers such as marigolds, foods and candles.  Families gather in cemeteries to decorate the graves and spend time remembering and mourning the deceased. 

Observances in Cemeteries (Pantéons)

 The most beautiful observances of Dia de los Muertos are found in the cemeteries, or pantéons, in Spanish.  Oaxaca is famous for beautiful and moving night-time Dia de los Muertos celebrations.  In these photos, families gathering to grieve together, and spend time with deceased members. These cemeteries have become popular tourist attractions.

Dia de los Muertos, cemetery of Xoxotlan, Oaxaca

Dia de los Muertos, cemetery of Xoxotlan, Oaxaca

                                                         Dia de los Muertos, Oaxaca

Dia de los Muertos, Oaxaca

Oaxaca has officially cancelled all public Dia de los Muertos events. 
This is a tremendous loss to the Oaxaca's tourism as well as its people.  As you can see in the photos, flowers, marigolds in particular, play an important role in decorating for Dia de los Muertos; sales of these flowers are down 50% this year in Mexico.  There is no online information about any virtual activities as there are in other places such as Mexico City.

Will Public Observances of Dia de los Muertos be allowed?

The very thing that makes Dia de los Muertos special, is the gathering of people in cemeteries to spend time with their beloved dead, as in the photos above.  This gathering of people in collective grief, is important to people, but is complicated by the health risks of public gatherings because of the pandemic.

The Mexican government has come up with measures to try and deal with this difficult situation. In many places, cemeteries will simply be locked November 1 and 2 to prevent the traditional gatherings. In Mexico City, the cemeteries will definitely be closed.  By some reports,  authorities have decided is to make decisions about cemeteries closures based on the covid situation from area to area.  Where the pandemic is more under control, cemeteries will be allowed to open with strict health measures in place.  In other places, with a higher active covid case count such as Mexico City cemeteries will remain closed. Since the covid situation in Mexico is fluid, some decisions likely won't be made until closer to the holiday.  If you read Spanish, here is article describing the details:

In some places, time-honored traditions are being adapted to the needs of the pandemic, as in this Dia de los Muertos candy market in Toluca MX.

Mexico City has adapted a number of it's traditional Dia de los Muertos events in inventive ways. One event, its parade, will be purely virtual, but other events will be held but include safety measures like social distancing and reservations.

A contact in Chiapas has told me that most celebrations will be private and that most of the cemeteries will remain closed except in very small towns.

Often, on the holiday,  people being painted  to resemble skeletons (Catarinas).  There is a long tradition of doing this and one Mexican artist who specializes in this activity plans to keep the tradition this year with some modifications.

Virtual Dia de los Muertos:

In view of the pandemic, many areas are creating virtual celebrations, just as they did with Semana Santa events.  

Mexico City plans to do its annual  Dia de los Muertos Procession as a virtual event.

Here is a video of a virtual celebration taking place in the Xochimilco area of Mexico City. tl-dia-de-muertos-de-mexico-se-adapta-a-la-pandemia/

There are two types of altars created for Dia de los Muertos.  There are those that are made within the home for a family and those that are in public spaces.  This year, in Mexico City there will be no public altars around which crowds would be sure to gather, but altars will be virtual. 

I will be adding information about virtual celebrations as it becomes available.

A Look at Traditional Dia de los Muertos:

For a look at traditional Dia de los Muertos celebrations, I invite you to click on this link, which leads to an article showing pre-pandemic celebrations from different areas of Mexico.