For those of us who come to observe, the 31st of October, and most importantly, the 1st and 2nd of November are the days not to be missed at the cemeteries and the zocalos where activities surrounding this most important holiday always abound. BUT, if you come in the days and even weeks before then, you will see markets brimming with the sugar cane, flowers, bread, calaberas (sugar skulls), and other adornments used in the construction of the home altars everyone constructs, be they rich or poor.
Even in our small pueblo of San Pablo Etla, we have local bands that criss cross the hilly dirt roads followed by a costumed and very animated dancing troupe assembled from the youth of the village. They gather for the “comparsa” which is a traditional musical parade followed by a small play acting out battles with the devil which involves lovers, elders and various other masked characters. There is beer, dancing, live turkeys and general enthusiasm all around.
The women in these pueblos busily embroider for months ahead of Dia de los Muertos to earn the money they need to buy the mole, fruit, flowers, and special treats enjoyed in life by their departed family members. They assemble these items on their altars to entice these spirits to come back for a night to drink, eat and enjoy their worldly indulgences.
For me, it is an amazing experience to observe all this but even more, I enjoy visiting with the ladies, who come down from their mountain villages to deliver the most amazing embroidered blouses you can imagine!