Mexicans honor loved ones during Day of the Dead

Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations are underway. It's a holiday that honors those who've died - by remembering how they lived in life.

CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock visited one town north of Mexico City, and tells us how its locals celebrate in their own special way. Watch the original video on CGTN America

Two years ago, Bertha Sanchez’s son Javier was killed in an explosion at work. The loss of her child was heartbreaking – a tragedy she said she’ll never get over.

“It was very painful mostly for me, for his father, his family”, she told CGTN. “The pain is terrible, and the pain never stops. When you lose a child, there are no words that can comfort you.”

But now, once a year, arm in arm with fellow townspeople in her village north of Mexico City, she spends an evening remembering her son.

This is Tultepec in Central Mexico, where the town’s Day of the Dead celebrations begin with a torch-lit march through the town, guiding the way home for the departed souls of those who died too young.

“We are going to the procession to light a candle,” said Bertha from her home in the town, as she prepared for the annual ritual that has taken on additional significance for her since the loss of her boy.

“We will light his way home so he can be with us.”

While Day of the Dead traditions trace back thousands of years, this local custom dates back to 1874, started by Fausto Urban’s great-grandmother. He leads the procession today.

“The feeling today is one of happiness, reminiscence and sadness, but not tragedy because we feel that they are with us. We remember the children as we accompany them around the town. They are marching alongside us,” he said, as he oversaw the preparations in the town center.

Nearly 2000Tultepec residents and visitors turned out on Wednesday evening to take part in the procession, which marks the start of the town’s Day of the Dead celebrations.

Mexico’s Day of the Dead is an ancient custom, celebrated across the country. People in Mexico believe this is a time their departed loved ones come back to visit, so they bring offerings of the things they enjoyed in life to their graves, and fondly relive happy times spent together.

“This is one of the most genuine festivities that is conserved here in Tultepec,” Juanita Zuñiga, a local historian, said.

“That’s because the family that organizes it has ensured that everything goes according to the tradition. The way their ancestors started it, is the way they continue doing it.”

As Tultepec’s Day of the Dead celebrations get underway, thoughts of the town’s lost young people will be with them throughout. It’s a ceremony that shares the burden of grief, and helps the community look to the future.