Tomorrow, I am going to ride along with two friends going to Pátzcuaro for the Day of the Dead festivities there on Saturday evening. We will do the simple camp out with small tents and sleeping bags afterward in the wee hours of Sunday morning and then return that day.
Pátzcuaro is in the state of Michoacan a bit to the south and west. It is one of the two major centers of the celebration of Day of the Dead in México, the other one being in the far south. Pátzcuaro is near a rather large lake, which plays some important part in all of this. I am determined to learn more about this fiesta, if one can call it that. I have done my reading, and now I need to see it in the flesh. It is far, far more than the simple equivalent of our Halloween.
Traditionally, it takes place on 1 and 2 November, the first day being Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels), dedicated to remembering the death of infants, particularly infants who have died during the preceding year. The second day is referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead) and is the day to remember deceased adults. A good deal of the festivities takes place in cemeteries, believe it or not.
Before the conquistadores three tribes of indigenous people lived around the lake near Pátzcuaro. They were continually at war with each other, which involved a little killing now and again. Harmless indigenous stuff. Then came the Spaniard named Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán in 1529 and demonstrated for the indigenous people there how killing and torture on a truly large scale are done. His nickname became "Bloody Guzmán," and he has been referred to as “the most depraved man ever to set foot in New Spain." I believe that the holocaust that he undertook in this area has something to do with the fact that Pátzcuaro is still one of the big Day of the Dead centers.
I shall report back on my field trip and the results of my research.