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Celebrating Life in Mexico

The air is crisp, the leaves are changing colors, and there’s something spooky in the air. On Halloween it’s impossible to not be excited by all things scary and mythical. While Halloween is a predominantly American holiday, cultures all over the world have their own holidays dedicated to otherworldly beings. Halloween as Americans know it stems from an ancient pagan Celtic festival called Samhain, but perhaps the best known sister of Halloween is Mexico’s Day of the Dead.


History of Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de los Muertos, originated about 3,000 years ago in ancient Mesoamerica where indigenous groups including the Aztec, Maya, and Toltec commemorated their loved ones who had passed away. During this holiday, families all over Mexico welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a night of food, drink, and major celebration. While Halloween is celebrated on only one day, the Day of the Dead spans across three, from October 31st to November 2nd. November 1st is known as “el Dia de los Innocents” or The Day of the Children, and November 2nd is All Souls Day. It is believed that at midnight on October 31st the gates of heaven open and the souls of the children are released for 24 hours. The souls of adults follow behind the next day for the next 24 hours. 


Mexican Day of the Dead


When a person dies, it was believed that their soul had to travel through nine challenging levels to reach its final resting place. This journey was believed to take several years, which is why the tradition of offering food and drink to the dead to aid them on their long journey began. Families will honor the souls of their loved ones by offering the deceased’s favorite foods at their gravesite or on altars in their homes. Because the Aztecs and other indigenous groups believed that life was cyclical and death was a constant and integral part of that, the Day of the Dead is not a day of mourning but of celebration. Death is inevitable but suffering doesn’t have to be, so why not eat, drink, and dance the nights away in memory of the loved ones who have moved on?


The Land of the Living

Besides being home to one of the most exciting Halloween-time holidays in the world, Mexico is also one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. With over 200,000 species calling this land home, Mexico lays claim to 10% of the world’s biodiversity. The country is number one in biodiversity of reptiles with 707 known species, second in mammals with 438 species, and fourth in amphibians with 290 species and flora with 26,000 species. Needless to say, there is no place like Mexico when it comes to the natural world. 


Scuba diving in Cancun


Whether you are a land lover or more at home at sea, Mexico has something amazing to show you. With its great diversity of ecosystems, there is constantly something new and beautiful to see here. One of the best ways to see the natural wonders of Mexico is through scuba diving. Mexico is world famous for its stunning coral reefs, large pelagic creatures, and entirely unique cenotes, which are a series of sinkholes connected by flooded cave systems. Whatever you want to see in the water, Mexico has it all, and this magnificent underwater world is accessible to all. If you’re an experienced scuba diver, head to Cancun, where you’ll have the chance to dive with everything from many species of shark, to manta ray, to dolphins, and sometimes even whales. If you’re still learning to use your mermaid abilities, there are countless opportunities to learn to dive in Mexico, especially on the east coast where currents are generally a bit tamer. For anyone not quite ready to get that up close and personal with this otherworldly ecosystem, there are still plenty of chance to see incredible marine life just by swimming or snorkelling.


Monarch butterflies


For anyone who prefers to keep their feet on land, Mexico has a ton to see for you too. Hiking and biking are incredible ways to see the country, and there is no shortage of incredible views and fascinating wildlife to see along the way. Mexico has 67 national parks scattered all over the country. You can experience the majesty of one of nature’s amazing natural events, the Monarch Butterfly migration, at the Piedra Herrada Sanctuary. No matter how much time you spend there, there will always be more to see. You’ll be planning your next trip to the country before you’ve even left.

Mexico is a fun and exciting country where life is constantly celebrated. If given the opportunity, celebrating the Day of the Dead in Mexico is a life changing experience. It’s both an exciting and fun couple of days, as well as an opportunity to reconnect to any of your loved ones who have passed, while bonding with the community around you. Even if you don’t make it to Mexico for the festival, life here is beloved and celebrated every day in the great biodiversity the country has to offer. No matter the time of year, Mexico is one country that is sure to take your breath away.


by  Dara Israel

Dara is avid scuba diver, book worm, and vegetarian foodie with a deep passion for conservation. Her favorite countries so far are Greece, Bosnia and South Africa. She loves writing about anything that encourages people to get outdoors, try something new, and live more sustainably.