People observe pieces from the exhibition "Me lleva la huesuda", on October 31, 2023, in the main square of the city of Puebla (Mexico). EFE/Hilda Ríos

Tradition meets Art-Toy to celebrate Day of the Dead in Puebla

Puebla, Mexico, Nov 1 (EFE).- In Puebla, traditional preparations like the harvest of cempasúchiles and paper carvings meet a pop art display of 120 skeletons for this year’s Day of the Dead.

Photograph of a tomb lit with candles, in the early morning of November 1, 2023, in Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca (Mexico).. EFE/ Daniel Ricardez

More than 120 toy skulls

More than 120 skulls make up the largest display in public squares for the Day of the Dead in Mexico, where the festivities begin Wednesday.

The display, called “Me lleva la Huesuda,” which literally translates to “taken by the bony one,” is an informal reference to death that is very typical of Mexican culture.

The skulls have been scattered throughout the public plazas of Puebla, in the center of the country, representing “alebrijes” (brightly colored folk art carvings of fantastical creatures), actors, mariachis, celebrities, and other historical figures typical of the country.

People observe pieces from the exhibition “Me lleva la Huesuda”, on October 31, 2023, in the main square of the city of Puebla (Mexico). EFE/Hilda Ríos

The sculptures pay homage to those who have left the earthly plane and also to different professions, explains the creator of the project, Israel Maldonado García, who curated a mash between the Day of the Dead and Art-Toy, a pop artistic movement.

During the tour, characters such as the Blue Demon, an icon of Mexican wrestling, a mariachi with his illuminated costume, an alebrije, a Mayan warrior and a crew of breakdancers come to life.

There is even a Talavera skull, as tribute to the potters who make this traditional craft in Puebla.

The exhibit meets the thousands of colorful altars that adorn family homes and public spaces throughout the day in Mexico, most of them covered in paper carvings and yellow flowers that also come from Puebla.

Colorful paper carvings

Although the celebration of the Day of the Dead lasts only a few days, the annual preparations begin months before.

The municipality of Huixcolotla in Puebla is the main national producer of papel picado (tissue paper with cut-out shapes), a colorful craft that adorns the altars and other decorations alluding to the Day of the Dead.

Producers make paper carvings, on October 30, 2023, in the municipality of Huixcolotla in the state of Puebla (Mexico) EFE/ Hilda Ríos

The paper shows death in a comical way, represented by smiling skulls, bicycles, bakers, and famous people like Frida Kahlo, it brings joy to the graves, altars, or representative spaces of Mexican families who celebrate their dead on November 1 and 2.

More than 80% of the population of Huixcolotla is dedicated to the production of decorations, which is why it is known as the “cradle of papel picado.”

José Alejandro Reynoso, founder of the workshop Los Cartelitos, has been dedicated to this activity for 43 years, and runs a family business, managed by him, his wife and his children.

He explained that the preparation begins with counting 50 sheets of tissue paper, which are placed on top of each other, then the design is placed on top and carved using chisels of different sizes.

Reynoso said that it can take up to a week to finish a paper because it can take anywhere from 200 to 3,000 strokes to finish a figure.

Thousands of yellow flowers

Along with papel picado, cempasúchiles, a kind of marigold, are key to the celebration of the Day of the Dead.

In the municipality of Atlixco, also in Puebla, field workers arrive early in the morning, machete or sickle in hand, to cut the stems of each flower weeks before the November 1 celebration.

Photograph of a field of marigold flowers, traditionally used to decorate altars, offerings and tombs during the Day of the Dead season, on October 29, 2023 in the municipality of Atlixco, state of Puebla (Mexico).EFE/Hilda Ríos

The flowers are supposed to guide the souls from their burial place to their family homes for the night.

The endemic flower has a special shape and there are about 56 species throughout Mexico, it has more than 20 petals in yellow, gold or orange, with a penetrating smell and is so unique that its life is a maximum of four months.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead, celebrated on November 1 and 2, is celebrating its 20th anniversary of being declared a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, thanks to its unique combination of indigenous traditions intertwined with Catholicism brought by the Spanish.EFE