Día de los Muertos in Guadalajara!

Tlaquepaque letters decked out for Día de los Muertos

Halloween is my favorite time of the year, so it makes sense that I would love Día de los Muertos in México so much. Last year I was in Playa del Carmen for the holiday and had a blast. There they celebrate Todas Somos Catrinas, which is slightly different. Here in Guadalajara, it’s more about decorating gravesites to pay respect to the dead. So much color and creativity. It’s really beautiful.

Street art of Catrina
This amazing Catrina is on the outside wall of the cemetery. That is some talent!

Before and the after

I picked an apartment in Guadalajara right next to not one but two massive cemeteries. These cemeteries are so cool both inside and out. Massive concrete walls surround each to either keep people out during the night… or keep spirits in. Or both? The walls have acquired some truly lovely wall art. You could spend a day just walking around the outside, let alone the insides. I took so many pictures!

Día de los Muertos is right around the corner and people are already at the cemetery decorating. I wanted to see how it looked beforehand. In Playa del Carmen, loads of people actually painted gravesites with all kinds of vibrant colors. Here, people are still painting the sites but mostly in white. Kind of just freshening up the place. I am very curious to see what it looks like on the actual holiday.

Panteón de Mezquitán cemetery
The cemeteries in Guadalajara are really beautiful. This is at Panteón de Mezquitán. The empty graves are several stories deep!

The gravesites are very interesting here. They are still the box above-ground structures that you see in most Mexican cemeteries, but you can see inside some that are broken open. There are many signs telling people not to sit or climb on the criptas “for your safety”. It’s no joke. Those broken ones look hollow and extremely deep. Like a couple of stories deep (it gets deeper every time I tell the story!). You could get seriously hurt if you fell in and it would be a struggle to get back out. I’m not sure where the bodies are supposed to go. Or if the broken gravesites got emptied out for some reason.

Let the celebrations begin!

The festivities begin with the American holiday of Halloween. I walked around town a bit and did see a few kids dressed up, but not much. Not as much as in Playa, where the kids go around to the shops to get candy. Pretty laid back here for sure. It might just be the neighborhood I’m in, as there are not a lot of foreigners here. I used to dress up every year, but now my budget and traveling lifestyle frown upon that idea.

Dressed up skeleton near festival
So much fun walking around and seeing all the holiday decorations!

After a bit of research, I discovered that Tlaquepaque is the neighborhood to be in for all things celebrating Día de los Muertos. They go all out with events and parades and decorations. Most of the streets are closed down and traffic becomes a nightmare. No worries for me because I ride the light-rail. It’s like $1.30 per ride, so why not? I unfortunately missed the parade because the post I read said they canceled it this year and then I read that it was a good time after the fact. Oops.

To Tlaquepaque I go! How to get there? Turns out there is a light-rail that goes directly there. Unfortunately, that light-rail is pretty far away from my apartment. I checked into taking a bus to the station. The problem is you wait 15 minutes for a bus and the bus takes another 15 minutes. It’s only a 35 minute walk, so I might as well get some exercise. Plus Guadalajara is completely flat and well marked (grid system for the win!), which makes it really easy to walk from one place to the other without getting lost.

Tlaquepaque decorated for Día de los Muertos
The neighborhood of Tlaquepaque goes all out for the holidays!

Let’s take a walk

You do have to be careful on the sidewalks because there are quite a few holes in the earth. Plus dog poop. Always watch for that. People are so nice though! I say Hola to just about everyone and most look me in the eye and say hi back, which is impressive for a massive city. I have always felt safe walking around. And this is a cash economy so everyone knows everyone is carrying cash moneys. Just like anywhere, you still have to watch your pockets in crowds.

It’s such a cash economy that I’ve already had two different situations where I spotted someone dropping money. I have to chase them down to give it back! This one in Tlaquepaque was this kid delivering items on his bike. Luckily, his delivery was right up the street or I never would have caught up to him. He was very confused. Especially because I still haven’t learned how to say, “you dropped this” in Español. I had to just mime it!

Hippo reading a book on park bench
This is my favorite sculpture in Tlaquepaque! The bench legs on the far side aren’t even touching the ground!

Okay, so I walk the 35 minutes to the light-rail… which just happens to be right in front of a massive church! Winning. I love all the old architecture around here. You never know what you are going to find while wondering around. I had already purchased a bus/light-rail card a few days ago while visiting a different light-rail station by the cemetery. Now all I had to do was tap the card at the reader and head on in. I’m off to Tlaquepaque!

You should see this place. It’s very cool. I got off at the wrong light-rail stop, so I ended up walking a lot further than intended, but it is a charming neighborhood. Lots of colorful buildings and art. Some delightful looking restaurants and shops. Plus a lovely, massive church for a bit of historic architecture. Bunch of booths setup in the city square for the holiday. Booth after booth was offering face-painting for Día de los Muertos. So fun! I walked for hours before finally heading to a tiny restaurant I had pre-scoped out.

Fancy dressed up skeleton with flowers
Check out this decorated storefront in Tlaquepaque!

Food… and drink?

The restaurant served quesabirria! OMG! With fresh handmade corn tortillas! Like you could see the lady making the tortillas right there. Birria is a way of cooking beef for either tacos or, as the name implies, to add to quesadillas to make none other than quesabirria. Then they give you this delicious dipping sauce plus lime and hot sauce. If you come anywhere near here, you have to try it. It is so good!

What the restaurant doesn’t serve is alcohol. I was really looking forward to drinking a cold margarita while watching all the throngs of people pass by. All those face-painted humans. Plus some doggies in costumes! The problem is that the alcohol prices in this neighborhood are tourist prices. A drink costs more than my meal. I’m getting tired with all the walking around, anyway. Time to head back to the light-rail and then on home. I think I walked about 15km!

Massive decorated skull
People go all out for Día de los Muertos!

The next day, I headed back to that giant cemetery I had visited a few days prior. What a change! They filled the place with decorations and people were everywhere putting on fresh coats of paint and sprucing the place up. People were also constructing traditional ofrendas, or offerings, for the dead. I noticed numerous ofrendas just walking around town as well.

There were guides at the entrances to the cemeteries to help you find the gravesite you were looking for. Lots of people were walking around, taking pictures. Volunteers had set up a huge offering for some of the important humans of Guadalajara. It was very cool to see.

Decorated gravesites for Día de los Muertos
The squirrels were really loving all the offerings of bread and sugar skulls on the gravesites, known as ofrendas. There was the occasional beer as well!

More to come…

I’ve been wondering all over this area, and I have tons to tell you. I made it to Ajijic and Chapala for a single day trip. That was exciting! Those two towns live on the biggest lake in all of México. More to follow on that. Guadalajara is massive and I haven’t quite figured out the bus system as much as I would like. I just end up walking everywhere. But I am getting some cool pictures for you all. Stay tuned!

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1 Comment

  1. Great colorful photos. Weather looks fantastic.

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