By the time I arrived in to Xoxocotlán (“ho-ho-cot-lahn”), it was close to midnight. It was the first night of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festivities and people all over Mexico were sitting vigil at the gravesites of dearly departed family and friends, waiting for the souls to return. I was there to experience the event.
All along the short walk to the Panteon Nuevo, the larger and newer of the two cemeteries in town, I felt like was walking through the grounds of a carnival - food vendors were out in full force, music was blaring over loudspeakers, and there was even a photo booth!
The convival atmosphere continued into the cemetery, which lit up by hundreds, if not thousands, of candles. Nearly every tomb was decorated with banners, flowers, and the occasional balloon; favorite foods and drinks were put out to entice the soul to appear. People were sitting alongside tombs.
At first, it was strange to walk into a cemetery that wasn’t neatly manicured and so quiet I could hear a pin drop. With all the chatter, laughter and music going on around me, I was quickly reminded that this night is all about celebrating life and not mourning death – it’s suppose to be festive. I was lucky to have a family invite me to join them for a cup of hot chocolate and to hear stories of their parents’ amazing life. I graciously accepted and soon found myself laughing along. It was a long night for me but it was a great night!