I’m organizing a Photography: Culture and Practice workshop for Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebrations from October 25th to November 2, 2019.
The Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican tradition stretching back to pre-Colonial times. The native traditions have blended with Catholic iconography and spirituality, and so it is observed on November 1-2, All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. The proximity on the calendar to Halloween and the common tradition of dressing up in ornate costumes and makeup has led to confusion by outsiders thinking that they are one and the same. However, the primary purpose is a time for Mexicans to honor and reflect upon their loved ones who have passed on. The skeletal makeup, and especially the ornate costuming of the Catrina figure, have evolved over time to serve as a reminder that all, rich and poor, criollo and indigenous, are equal in the end.
We will be staying at the historic Hotel Geneve on Calle Londres in the Zona Rosa. Centrally located, the hotel is walking distance to a wide range of restaurants, shops, and bars, and the Insurgentes Metro and express bus station is just two blocks away. There is also a Sanborn’s Department Store off the hotel entrance should you need anything, including a full-fledged pharmacy that stocks everything from toiletries to prescription medication.
We will arrive before the great parade, known in Spanish as the desfile, of the alebrijes. Alebrijes are fanciful creatures who exist in the other world to motivate, guide, and sometimes scare us. This parade runs along Avenida Reforma from Chapultepec Park all the way to the Zocalo, or main square. While the desfile is a popular feature of day of the dead celebrations throughout Mexico, traditionally there was not a grand parade in Mexico City. Then in 2015, the James Bond franchise came to Mexico City to film Spectre, and imagined a giant parade for Day of the Dead in the opening sequence. City authorities decided that if they could have one in the movie, they should have one in real life, and thus was born the parade in Mexico City. Not wanting to be outdone, the Mexico City parade is an enormous affair.
The alebrijes will remain on display throughout the week along both sides of Avenida Reforma.
Another common feature of the Day of the Dead celebrations is the ofrenda – an altar or shrine set up to place photos of the departed loved ones and place offerings of their favorite foods and beverages to entice their spirits to return and visit. You will find ofrendas of all shapes and sizes, with varying offerings on display, throughout the city.
Throughout the week we will be doing photo excursions to the Centro Historico, Roma Norte, Coyoacan and San Angel/UNAM (Autonomous National University of Mexico) neighborhoods. Daily photo assignments will be provided, and we will have an evening image review/critique before dinner. We will also have opportunities to visit some of the galleries and exhibit spaces showing contemporary Mexican photography, as we will be in Mexico City for a very special event – the biennial FotoMexico photography festival. This festival, held every two years, is a three month long, nationwide photography festival. There will be a dozen or more different exhibit spaces in both public and commercial galleries showcasing historic and contemporary Mexican and Latin-American photography. To see information about past FotoMexico events, go here: FotoMexico 2017 .
Pricing information and day-to-day schedule will be forthcoming. Price will include hotel, daily breakfast, ground transportation to and from the hotel. Admission to museums, attractions, incidentals at the hotel, other daily meals, and any other personal expenses will be the responsibility of the individual participants. Airfare is the responsibility of the individual participant- if you need assistance, I will be happy to make recommendations. AeroMexico, United, Delta and American all operate daily flights from Dulles International Airport to Mexico City. Individual travelers will be expected to purchase their own travel insurance that includes medical coverage and/or demonstrate that they have such coverage available prior to embarkation.
See the neighborhood guides for information and inspiration about some of the places we’ll go: