Day of the Dead in Mixquic

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Mixquic is a small town in Tlahuac, one of the 16 boroughs of the Mexican Federal District; its name comes from the Nahuatl mizquitl which means mesquite.

The community was founded in the 11th century and used to be an island in the Chalco Lake being its main economical activity the agriculture on chinampas.

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Mexico's Valley Basin in 1519
Mixquic is located at the picture's bottom right corner

At the beginning of the 20th century the lake was dried out and although many chinampas were preserved using well water by th 1960's most of them were substituted by orchards. Mixquic is nowadays the main producer of vegetables in the Federal District.

The center of the village is the church and ex-monastery of San Andres Apostol that dates from the 1600's and was built over the Teocalli or sacred precinct of Mixquic. In the courtyard of the old monastery there are a number of pre-Hispanic archeological finds on display.

Surrounding the church is the community's cemetery, where the world famous Lit Up or Alumbrada is held every Day of the Dead; thousands of tourists from Mexico and abroad visit the town during these celebrations attracted with their festive yet traditional flavor.

Day of the Day Celebrations
The preparations for the Day of the Dead celebrations begin in the middle of October. The houses are cleaned and their facades painted; the streets and cemetery are swept as everything has nice and tidy to make the souls feel welcome and comfortable.

On every house's entrance door family members hang a star, a cross or a barrel made with tissue paper and lit with a bulb to show the souls their way home.

On October 31st altars for the children are set at the houses. A table cloth used only for this purpose is used on a table with candles and xoloscuincles figurines that will guide children on their way to this world. The altars are decorated with white flowers and candies, atole, and sweet tamales are offered to the little ones.

The next day by noon the church's bell tolls 12 times and the souls of the children go back while the grownups begin to arrive.

The altars are now ready for the adults ornate with cempasuchil flowers; a glass of water is set in the altar to mitigate the soul's thirst together with spirited drinks like pulque, and spicy dishes such as barbacoa.

Next to the altar on the floor a new petate is placed; on it tamales, fruits and little pots with salt (to flavor the food) ornate with chiseled paper are left for the souls to enjoy.

At seven o'clock in the afternoon the church's bell announces the beginning of El Campaneo (Bell Ringing): groups of eight adults and children with little bells go around the town ringing their bells at the houses entrance and offer to pray for the souls, after they finish praying they ask for a tamale and at the end of the campaneo they all gather and share what they earned.

At eight o'clock the church bell indicates it is time to gather around the family altar and pray the rosary, at the end each family member lights a candle and sets it in the altar.

Mixquic altar

La Alumbrada
On November 2nd at 4 o'clock the church's bell notifies it is time for La Alumbrada (The Lit Up); everybody gathers copal, flowers and candles and hurries to the cemetery where the tombs are ornate with designs made of flowers petals.

The candles are set in the feet and the head of the tombstones and the copal is burned all night long while the people hold a wake. The light will help the souls find the way back to their world.

On November 3rd the people in Mixquic satisfied for the welcoming they had given their dead celebrates eating the food in the altars sharing with neighbors and friends while commenting on the celebrations that just ended.

Many cultural activities, like dances, theater plays and altars contests as well as an open market can be enjoyed in those days around the town.

Mixquic Alumbrada

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