A combination of ancient rituals, religious traditions and a definite appetite for enjoyment makes it nigh on impossible to take your holidays in Mexico without sampling some of the country’s many festivals and revels. With more delicious food, music, dancing and culture than you can imagine, read on for five of our favourite Mexican fiestas…
Day of the Dead, November
Few events better express the national character of Mexico than Dia de Muertos, the mass country-wide day of remembrance when everyone comes out in ghoulish garb in tribute to their lost loved ones, creating their own elaborate outdoor shrines in graveyards, making campfires and leaving offerings of food, drink and personal memorabilia. Rather than being a maudlin affair, the public holiday is more of a celebration of life and its fleeting nature. It’s an extraordinary spectacle which puts Halloween in the shade.
Mexican Independence Day, September
Not to be confused with Cinco de Mayo, the largely American celebration of Mexican independence in May, Mexican’s hoist a margherita themselves in September, when the President repeats el Grito De Dolores, the victorious speech given by Hidalgo in 1810, kicking off a lively programme of patriotic military parades, marching Mariachi bands and concerts.
Mazatlan Mardi Gras, February
Come fat Friday, this 117-year-old fiesta gives Rio and New Orleans a run for its money, attracting thousands of revellers to what’s now the third biggest shindig of its kind in the world. The celebrations last for several days of spirited street entertainment, street food, fireworks, live music and mass parades along the Mazatlan Malecon seafront and through the historic old town.
Carnival de Ocozocoautla, March
This is one of the most curious and interesting of the many religious festivals you’ll find across Mexico. This event in the southern town of Ocozocoautla de Espinoza harks back to the pre-Hispanic era, drawing on the traditions of the native Zoque people. Several days of dances and parades are topped off with a prize giving for the best performers and then a riotous free-for-all in which everyone dusts each other in flour, talcum powder, water and the yellow powder of the zapoyal fruit. Everything culminates in a ceremonial ‘robbery of the pig’s head’ on the day after Ash Wednesday!
Cervantino Arts Festival, October
Established over 40 years ago in honour of national literary hero Cervantes, whose plays were once performed here in the city’s squares, this festival held in the colonial, silver mining town of Guanajuato has grown to be one of the biggest and most prestigious events in Mexico’s cultural calendar, with an increasingly international flavour. Expect to enjoy a broad spectrum of events, from opera, to contemporary dance, theatre, visual arts, film, literature and multimedia, plus a range of workshops, exhibits and conferences.