This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico‍‍‍


Nov. 25, 2017

Mexico Is Fiesta!

A Katrina (photo courtesy of Shannon Pixley Sheppard)

Fiestas were the major reason I moved to Mexico. I love this part of the culture! The music and dance, costumes, foods, parades, and ceremonies—different for every occasion. Included are young and old and pets.

Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, comes just after Halloween. Each region has its own customs. Where I live, there’s a resident indigenous population going back to the Toltecs. They consider Halloween as a bastardization of their celebration and frown on it. I’ve seen posters denouncing it. Mexicans have a healthier perspective towards death than western culture.

On the first night, and again a week later, families have a party in their family’s section of the cemetery. They eat, drink, sing, and dance over their loved one’s graves. This is common throughout Mexico.

The cemetery (el panteon) in Tepoztlan, courtesy ‍‍‍of @planetjose

On the second night, the streets fill with families. The children carry calaveras: a round squash carved to represent a skull with a handle and candle inside. They go door to door singing a song to beg for candy.

On the second night, I began my journey early in the evening, starting from Centro. It’s thronged with people. The Katrina is the most popular costume.

Artists in the zocalo (the town common) are busy face painting to imitate skulls on both children and adults. Vendors sell masks and calaveras. Groups wander from store to store to get treats. As I move away from Centro, it’s still crowded, but thins out as the hordes migrate from house to house.

Most families have an altar. Public displays are common and  elaborate. They have photos of the family’s deceased and items to attract their souls. Depending on the individual soul’s tastes when alive, there may be liquor, a cigarette, or a favorite food. Candles and flowers are plentiful.

Top left is an altar at the Tepoztlan Zocalo (or town common).

In the street, in front of the house, a small fire burns to summon the souls and warm them. A path of marigold petals leads the way inside to the altar.

I end the evening sitting in the yard with a local family having shrimp soup and ponche, an alcoholic drink. It’s a joyous time with lots of jokes and conversation.

There are fiestas with a more nationalistic flavor, having parades. Others are religious. Each barrio has its annual celebration honoring the saint it’s named after, with elaborate meals served. Families have their private fiestas—weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. There’s never a dull moment living in Mexico.

Dia de los Muertos co‍‍‍urtesy of

In future letters, I’ll be describing other fiestas as they come.

What do you think of the fiestas of Mexico? How do they compare with the parties and celebrations of other countries, i.e, El Norte?



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