Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico: Larry Grossman 7 at 70February 28, 2023 • By Ben Ball
In celebration of turning 70, Larry is hitting all seven continents with the help of THIRDHOME.
As Larry travels the globe with THIRDHOME, he’ll be blogging about his experiences as he navigates the post-pandemic world. His planning began in 2019 with THIRDHOME Director of Adventures, Liz Bates, who has assisted him in pivoting to satisfy his travel cravings when COVID-19 restrictions have not allowed him to visit a destination. Keep reading to learn more about Larry’s most recent travel experiences.
Next Stop: Cozumel, Mexico
My travel buddies and I celebrated Día de los Muertos in Cozumel, Mexico! So colorful, with so many skeletons, so many masks and costumes, so much great food, and so much joyful confusion for us Gringos. To help future visitors who are lucky enough to find themselves south of the border during this glorious holiday, let me share some Dia de Muertos factoids:
Día de los Muertos is not:
- The Mexican version of our Halloween. No trick or treating; kids don’t get dressed up; the adults do! Excellent Mexican cuisine is everywhere, not Mars and Snickers bars.
- A day to celebrate Freddy Krueger or Jason. Cancel the chainsaws, knives, and hockey masks.
- A remake of any of the Day of the Dead movies. No flesh-eating zombies or zombie costumes are to be seen anywhere.
Día de Muertos is:
- A celebration of life, not death. Families gather at homes and local cemeteries to remember and celebrate the lives of departed family members.
- A yearly chance for families to welcome back the souls of departed family members for a reunion with food, drink, dance, and memories.
- The building of temporary altars called “ofrendas” that feature photos of family members to be remembered, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), lots of marigold flowers, and water or tequila because when the souls visit and crossover, they are thirsty.
- An ancient tradition dating back 3,000 years to the Aztecs, who saw death as an integral part of life.
- According to many of my Mexican friends, a favorite holiday due to the chance to reconnect spiritually with beloved family members
- A day of dancing, parades, and festivals (watch the opening scene in the James Bond film Spectre shot in Mexico City).
If you want to understand the spirit behind this beautiful holiday, fire up the Disney Channel and watch the enchanting Pixar Studio movie Coco. It is a visually rich peek into the culture of Mexico that appeals to all ages.
Back to Cozumel and my week at one of my favorite THIRDHOME properties of all time, Villa Yak Alil, a 6,500 square foot home located on a private palm tree-lined beach. This little slice of paradise was one of those homes you didn’t want to leave once you unpacked and toured the property. Private beach, check! Ocean kayaks, fit! Snorkeling off the coast, check! Fully equipped kitchen, check! Sunset over the Caribbean, check! Check out pelicans, egrets, and stingrays, all visible from our front-row seats at the beach!
But my six travel buddies, like me, want to visit new places, and Cozumel and the Riviera Maya provide ample opportunities for exploration. Our first order of business was to arrange transportation for the week, and we lucked out. Our two guides, Andres and Jesus, were former kings of the Cozumel Carnival, and they knew every nook and cranny of this beautiful island. We realized we were in the presence of Cozumel “royalty,” and our guides were not taxi drivers but celebrities in Cozumel. King Andres provided transportation, and he and his wife cooked a fabulous seafood dinner and the best flan I’ve ever tasted. Our tour included visiting the cemetery where families were preparing ofrendas for the Dia de los Muertos celebrations later that Day.
Downtown Cozumel was all decked out with statues and holiday decorations. So many skulls and so much color everywhere! Our visit to the 2-story Museo De La Isla Cozumel served two purposes:
1. An opportunity to learn about Cozumel’s history, culture, and geography
2. The chance to visit the 2nd-floor restaurant and enjoy guacamole and margaritas while viewing all the waterfront activities is just as important. Cozumel is a popular cruise ship port. But It is a very different experience to spend a week on the island versus a few hours touring off a cruise ship.
Our big week adventure was taking the ferry with King Jesus to the mainland and an excursion to the Mexican theme park Xcaret, located 40 minutes south of Cancun. Xcaret is unlike any U.S. amusement park. Not a roller coaster anywhere, nor any waterslides or mechanical dinosaurs. But the collection of attractions made me wish we had two days instead of 1 to visit the park. Take advantage of this spot if you vacation in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
Highlights were many, including:
- We were snorkeling through an underwater cave.
- Observing the iguanas, jaguars, manatees, sea turtles, monkeys, and flamingos at close range.
- Closing the Day with the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular show highlights Mexico’s history from Jai Lai to the Spanish invasion to mariachi.
- The Danza de los Voladores, a UNESCO cultural heritage, in which five performers climb a 30-meter pole and four spin down to the ground attached to ropes while the 5th plays a flute and drum remaining at the top of the bar. No fear and no net!
If Cozumel is not on your Mexico “I’ve got to get their list,” I strongly suggest you add it.
World Traveler, Philanthropist, Friend, & THIRDHOME Member