The Evening Before: Day of the Dead in The Jardin…

Altar Image - In The Jardin

The Jardin in San Miguel de Allende…

Following a tradition brought by the Spaniards nearly 500 years ago, every town in Mexico, large and small, has a central square. It’s where friends meet, where gossip gets passed around, where you learn what’s going on—and who did it.

In most Mexican towns, it’s referred to as the zocalo. But in San Miguel de Allende, that central square is called the Jardín Principal, the “Main Garden.” But don’t worry about translating it. Everyone, Mexican and foreign, just calls it the Jardín, (pronounced har-DEEN) and it is San Miguel’s center, the main point of reference, the locale for fireworks and folkloric dancing, music and munching and just generally hanging out.

On ‘Erev’ Day of the Dead  locals set up altars for family members and friends that have passed away. Some set them up in cemeteries at the grave sites (another blog post), some set up altars in their homes and others go to the Jardin to make their altars.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull, which celebrants represent in masks , called calacas (colloquial term for “skeleton”), and foods such as sugar or chocolate skulls, which are inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Sugar skulls are gifts that can be given to both the living and the dead. Other holiday foods include pan de muerto, a sweet egg bread made in various shapes from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits, often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones. Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or “the little angels”), and bottles of tequila, mexcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. For my dear friends who might (LOL) set up an altar for me…Jack Daniels please!

The Altars at The Jardin

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