Todas Somos Catrinas in Playa del Carmen

Art decorating the cemetary

My in-laws flew down to visit me in Playa del Carmen, México at the end of October specifically for the Todas Somos Catrinas (We are all Catrinas) and Hanal Pixán (Food for the Souls) celebrations. This is my favorite time of year and they really go all out here! You have just about a full week of activities and the kids get to dress up to trick-or-treat for three days in a row! So much fun to see!

Playa del Carmen does it right

Todas Somos Catrinas is a festival to kick off the celebrations of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is a kind of misnomer because it is not just a single day. Día de los Muertos is a time to remember and help those who have died on their spiritual journey. There is a day for children who have died and another for all others. The best way to really understand it as an outsider is to watch the movie ‘Coco’, which I highly recommend.

Catrina statue on 5th Ave
These fabulous Catrina statues are up and down 5th Ave!

It starts out with Todas Somos Catrinas with face-painting and parades. Then comes some USA influence on Halloween. After that, there are two days of Día de los Muertos. Kids get to run around in costumes getting candy for those three days. People build altars and give offerings to those who have passed on, with offerings being things that the person liked in life such as beer, candy, sweet bread. It’s a really special time.

We had heard that one of the major theme parks down here really does some amazing things for Todas Somos Catrinas but we are all retired and those parks are prohibitively expensive. And it costs a lot just to get to them as well. Plus, it is still COVID times, so it’s best to avoid massive indoor crowds when possible. Oh, and children. Those places tend to have lots of kids running around. Kids are gross. Okay, so I do like to see them in costumes, but from a distance.

Must feed the in-laws Chilaquiles!

I have been here for five months and have created a list of all the restaurants I want to visit, but can’t justify without company. Now’s the time! This turned out to be a slight waste of time because I also have a list of restaurants that I just love and want my visitors to experience. Taking them to an unknown restaurant could be risky. It might be crap. I think I got pretty lucky most of the time.

Cenote by the restaurant on 38th street
This is the start of the cenote on 38th Street. There are real fish and turtles!

My father-in-law had discovered Chilaquiles here, which is the very best way to eat nachos for breakfast in PDC. They are so freaking good! So I found my in-laws a great breakfast place that serves Yucatán fare, including Chilaquiles. The restaurant is also right above this cool cenote with fish and turtles. Such a beautiful tropical location on 38th Street!

From breakfast, there is this great beach access, so we took a lovely walk in the morning sunshine in that gorgeous soft white sand that PDC is famous for. Tragically, that beach access point is now gone. Just gone. Hurricane Lisa (the one that wrecked havoc on Belize) sent us some storm surge that washed all that sand out, so there is no way to walk past the resort cabanas on either side of the access without getting wet (I tried! More on that later).

On the way back up from the beach, I talked my in-laws into taking a photo on two giant beach chairs. Best photo ever! My mother-in-law is looking all cute and happy and my father-in-law is giving me this look that just cracks me up every time I see it. A kind of resigned, ‘Yup, I crawled up here just for this picture. Get it over with.’ Too fun!

In-Laws on giant beach chairs
Best picture of the in-laws! His facial expression cracks me up.

Todas Somos Catrinas!

We had a very busy first day of Todas Somos Catrinas. After eating some lunch, we hiked down to meet some friends at a local beach club with live music. This time of year, they fully decorated 5th Ave for the festivities. Catrinas and altars and decorations everywhere! I’m glad to have company to share this with. But we got to go. We have a fútbol game to get to!

The game is free to get into and you can bring food and drink. Such a fun time to watch both the game and all the families with all their picnic supplies. Plus, they sell marquesitas which I can’t have, but look amazingly delicious. Like a chocolate crepe made with waffle-cone batter. I want one! Stupid gluten allergy. We can only stay for half a game because we have a parade to get to. Go! Go! Go!

Face painted people for Todas Somos Catrinas
Look at the detail of the face painting on these two! These are live humans!

I hike them back down to 5th Ave to watch the festivities. I grab a really magnificent spot for my MIL to sit where we can watch people getting their faces painted all Catrina style. And they are setting up an acrobatic rope thing, so you know it’s going to be good. People are dancing and taking photos. Kids and pets and adults all costumed out. The wait ended up being really long. We probably didn’t have to leave the game early, but we had a good time, anyway.

The acrobatics show was really fun, and the parade started right in front of us, so that was fun to watch. All this was free, mind you. We walked around a bit, pointing and exclaiming at all the sights and costumes and faces. I ended up walking them around way more than I intended, but tired in-laws at the end of the day counts as a win!

Dog in Catrina paint
Even the doggos got in on the Todas Somos Catrinas festivities!

To the cemetery!

If you have the opportunity to visit a Mexican cemetery for Día de los Muertos, I highly recommend it. Many people freshly paint the above ground graves in bright colors. There are offerings and flowers and candles. All to encourage the dead to stop by for a visit. Families are there celebrating the life of those no longer with them. It’s really magical.

I had a plan to walk to the cemetery and show the in-laws all the art under the freeway along the way. Unfortunately, it’s a really long walk, so we opted for a colectivo van. Plus, it was rainy. We got slightly wet anyway, but I really think it was worth it. We walked around and took a ton of photos. It’s a cool place.

We took a colectivo back to my apartment and dried off. These peeps from Seattle are used to rain but not downpour like can happen here in the tropics. It’s more like a gentle, constant drizzle in Seattle. Here it rains like the entire world is taking a shower for about ten minutes and then stops and all is well again.

Cemetery decorated for Día de los Muertos
The cemetery in PDC is fully decorated for Día de los Muertos. So much color!

Día de los Muertos Parade

The festive season held one more evening parade for us. This one was supposed to be very close by, which is great for my MIL and her poor back. We trudged down to 5th Ave. and found a lovely bench with which to perch and watch the show. Then we waited. Some police showed up to direct traffic, and we asked where the parade was. “It’s on its way.” We waited.

My father-in-law walked down 5th Ave a bit to see if he could see the parade coming. He saw some signs and a big gathering, but all the people taking pictures were causing a massive slowdown. It’s on its way. We waited some more. After about an hour and a half, I was like ‘Nope’. I’m calling it. This thing will never get here. I’m out.

We swung by the store on the way home. On the way, I got super lucky and spotted bats! I love bats! They swoop around eating mosquitos and other bugs. Get the bugs! They were pretty big as well. I thought they were swallows at first but they were totally bats. So very cool!

Grave decorated for Día de los Muertos
Someone put a lot of time and effort into decorating this grave for Día de los Muertos. That’s love!

All by myself

Well, the in-laws packed up their stuff and headed back to the cold, dark winter in Seattle. That left me here in Playa del Carmen all by myself. After 17 days of company and adventures, I was pretty excited about doing whatever I wanted. This, of course, involved a trip to the beach. I hadn’t walked that stretch of beach for a while and didn’t know that most of the sand had washed out. So much sand had washed out that the lifeguard station went with it! So crazy.

So here I am walking on the beach with my purse and phone (not waterproof!) so I could take pictures for you all. There’s a cabana along the beach where the ocean is splashing against the foundation. I time the waves and go for it. I head around the concrete and run smack into another lady doing the same thing as I am from the opposite direction!

We both pause, desperately scramble around each other, and get full-on drenched by a wave. Like head to toe drenched! Like, I got it in my ears! No bueno! Sand and salt-water in all the places! I get to the other side and grab my phone (again… Not waterproof!) out of my purse that has a considerable amount of salt-water in it. It looks like the phone case sucked up some water, but the phone looks fine.

Water washing up against a cabana
This is were I went wrong. I should have gone around. I got soaked!

No pictures for you!

In an abundance of caution, I cleaned my phone with alcohol (and my AirTag that I keep in my purse) and put it in some rice for a few days. So the next day when I went hiking around the city by myself and finally!… finally! saw a coati (the Mexican raccoon) I couldn’t get a picture for you all. Sigh. Such is life.

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  1. Great that you had company for a couple weeks. The Mexicans certainly know how to do Dia do los Muertos.

    Here we’ve actually had great weather, if a bit cold. A big storm put a LOT of rain and snow in the mountains, put out the fires, then simply went away for a long cold front period. Got in a couple hikes in the snow that was laid down. Rain coming in tomorrow. I think ‘real’ winter is here.

  2. […] with plane tickets to Cancún costing a ridiculous amount and the sargassum scaring people away, I only had the in-laws stay in my apartment. I could have saved money (and maybe gotten a better place) by getting a smaller […]

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