Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is a colorful, celebratory holiday that mixes the macabre with the mundane and the magical. A day to remember, honor and celebrate those family members, friends, pets and even strangers who have passed.
It happens about the same time as Halloween hijinx and mixes some of our spooky shenanigans with Mexican rituals, but, without the fear of those that have moved on. Although ghosts and skeletons play important roles, it is an enchanting and not so creepy portrayal of the un-living. Parties gather in cemeteries, bestowing offerings for those who have moved on.
It’s fashionable to grunt disapprovingly when people say Cancun. Fair enough. It is a jumble of development — and if you are looking for romantic isolation — this might not be your first choice. But I was providing some romance for my family: my daughter and her boyfriend and my step daughter and her husband and child. My son and I completed the party but we were without our significant others.
The Westin Lagunamar in Cancun was actually a wonderful answer to the “how do you combine romance and family” question. The Westin Villa formula on this site provides a good answer. The twenty-thirty-something contingent had studios with Jacuzzis — just about big enough for two (rather small) people — really good views of the pool, and beyond that, the ocean and beach. Critically, they also had kitchens — so everyone could have their leisurely morning alone time — and at night, we piled into my one bedroom that had a dining room that seated all seven of us. Continue reading »
My cousin left for Cancun last weekend. She works at many UN conferences and was happy to be headed to a warm destination for the climate talks that followed last year’s ineffectual Copenhagen summit.
I recommended places on the Yucatan Peninsula for her to visit in her off time, such as the Colonial city of Merida, Tulum, Lake Bacalar, Uxmal or Valladolid near the Chichen Itza ruins.
A recent article in The Economist, entitled Tourism in Mexico, Can’t keep them away, began with “Sun, seas and severed heads.” Mexico, a country that counts on tourism dollars, has had a miserable couple of years, first with the swine flu, then the ongoing drug wars. More than 30,000 people have died in the last four years. Continue reading »
One night some years ago I arrived in Guanajuato, Mexico for the first time, knowing little about the place beyond its being yet another Spanish colonial city. When the bus couldn’t get anywhere near my hotel on Jardin de la Union because the streets were jammed with revelers, I got out, shouldered my bags, and plunged into the crowd.
Maybe it was the long bus ride that had warped my ability to make sense of my surroundings, or it could have been my diet of magic realism literature I was on at the time, but the scene I wound through that night presented the kind of phantasmagoria that can induce hallucinations. Was everyone in costume? Was it a warmup for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead? Colors flashed by, shouts and laughter and the melodious rhythms of Spanish ricocheted off balconied buildings. Smoke from street stalls carried the scent of grilled meat. And I continued to push my way, gently because this was a happy throng, across the plaza to the hotel. Continue reading »
As swine flu spreads, and fear along with it, more and more travelers are canceling their trips to Mexico. But they still want to get away. So we at Triporati created MexicoAlternatives.com to help travelers discover the locations around the world that are most similar to the popular Mexican destinations they had previously booked. Now travelers can salvage their plans, and find the travel experiences most comparable to the ones they had hoped to find in Mexico, without being in harm’s way.
Instead of Cancun, how about Rimini, Italy or Aruba or Boracay, Philippines?
Instead of Cabo San Lucas how about Isla Margarita, Venezuela or the Bay Islands of Honduras or Gran Canaria, Spain?
See all of the best options at MexicoAlternatives.com.
I love Mexican food, but sometimes all the rice and beans and heavy meat can weigh you down. Don’t get me wrong, I love burritos, but I have a hard time not finishing a whole one in a sitting, as much as I’d like to take half home for lunch the next day.
As an East Coast friend said when she first visited me in San Francisco in the early ’90s when our burritos arrived: “That looks like an infant.” She proceeded to place the wrapped burrito by her toned dancer’s belly and question how all that would fit in there. Miraculously it all fit!
Years later in New York City I saw advertisements for “San Francisco Mission Style” Burritos, which of course made me laugh having lived in or near the Mission for more than 15 years. So, my answer to the burrito baby syndrome was to order fish tacos; it seemed like a lighter choice. One of the first places, and to my mind one of the best in the city, is Papalote, a Mexican Grill on 24th street. When my first son was little we ate there once a week because I knew he would get a nutritious meal. The owner knows us well and has seen my son grown on his cooking. Now, my rice and bean aficionado goes to school a block away and we joke that it is because of his favorite restaurant. Don’t miss the fabulous house salsa; it’s a secret but I think it is made with pumpkin. Continue reading »
2009 has only just begun and few feel capable of predicting how the struggling economy will affect travel, beyond deep discounts. The landscape has changed and we all need to be on our toes to get the best deals. I came across an article on the Baltimore Sun website which offered five helpful New Year’s resolutions for the savvy vacationer:
I will beware of bankruptcies.
I will figure on fees.
I will get an edge through e-mail.
I will diligently monitor the U.S. dollar.
I will plan ahead to get a passport.
Did you know you might be charged for more legroom on flights? Another obvious, but often overlooked issue, the fact that the fluctuating dollar could drastically raise or reduce the cost of a hotel room abroad. Or, that on June 1, tighter border rules take effect. Most Americans returning by sea or land from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean will need a passport, a passport card or other secure document. Check out the article: Vow to make the most of your 2009 travel dollar to find out more about this list of travel tips for 2009.
In the U.S. ghosts and goblins come out on Halloween, but in Mexico the celebration begins the night after, on November 1, Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. In many communities, families spend the night in cemeteries to commune with the spirits of their departed loved ones, decorating their graves with marigolds and elaborate candies of sculls and skeletons, setting up feasts of the dead’s favorite foods.
Respectful foreigners are welcome to participate in these private, solemn celebrations, and many find their own meanings in these rituals. Barbara Robertson certainly did, as she writes about her otherworldly Day of the Dead experience in Los Muertos, a story published in The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2008.
On a recent trip to the Mexican resort city of Puerto Vallarta, I got a language lesson, and more, from my eight-year-old daughter. This story was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle Travel Section for Sunday, September 14.
“Perrrrrrrrrrrrrrrro,” I stuttered, failing completely to roll the r’s as my eight-year-old daughter laughed with glee.
“No, it’s perro,” she said in a perfect Spanish accent. “Like this.” She twittered like a bird demonstrating how to do it. “You need to practice.”
“Do you think I can learn?”
“Yes. Practice all the way home.” Continue reading »