How Mexico City’s first Day of the Dead parade was inspired by James Bond

Movies, zombie TV shows, Halloween and even politics are influencing Mexicos celebrations which traditionally consist of quiet family gatherings

Mexico City held its first Day of the Dead parade on Saturday, complete with floats, giant skeleton marionettes and more than 1,000 actors, dancers and acrobats in costumes.

The impressive spectacle has never been a part of traditional Day of the Dead celebrations, however. Instead, it was born out of the imagination of a scriptwriter for last years James Bond movie, Spectre.

In the film, whose opening scenes were shot in Mexico City, Bond chases a villain through crowds of revelers.

Lourdes Berho, CEO of Mexicos tourism board, said 135,000 people were expected to attend the real-life parade.

Movies, zombie TV shows, Halloween and even politics are fast changing Mexicos Day of the Dead celebrations, which traditionally consist of quiet family gatherings at graves of loved ones, bringing them music, drink and conversation.

When [Spectre] hit the big screen and was seen by millions and millions of people in 67 countries, that started to create expectations that we would have something, Berho said.

We knew that this was going to generate a desire on the part of people here, in Mexicans and among tourists, to come and participate in a celebration, a big parade.

Mexico City authorities even promised that some of the props used in the movie would appear in the parade. The government board sponsoring the march called it part of a new, multi-faceted campaign to bring tourists to Mexico during the annual Day of the Dead holiday.



figcaption class=”caption” caption–img caption caption–img” itemprop=”description”> Women wear skeleton masks during a procession organized by sex workers to remember their deceased colleagues ahead of the Day of the Dead parade. Photograph: Ginnette Riquelme/Reuters

Some see a fundamental change in the traditional Mexican holiday. Johanna Angel, an arts and communication professor at Ibero-American University, said the influences flow both north and south.

She noted that US Halloween celebrations are now including more Mexican-inspired candy skull costumes and people dressed up as Catrinas, modeled on a satirical 19th-century Mexican engraving of a skeleton in a fancy dress and a big hat.

I think there has been a change, influenced by Hollywood, Angel said. The foreign imports are what most influence the ways we celebrate the Day of the Dead here.

Traditionally, on the 1-2 November holiday, Mexicans set up altars with photographs of the dead and plates of their favorite foods in their homes. They gather at their loved ones gravesides to drink, sing and talk to the dead.

In some towns, families leave a trail of orange marigold petals in a path to their doorway so spirits can find their way home. Some light bonfires, sitting around the fire and warming themselves with cups of boiled-fruit punch to ward off the autumn chill.

Many cities set up massive, flower-strewn altars to the dead and hold public events like parades, mass bicycle events and fashion shows in which people dress up in Catrina disguises.

Some say the changes do not conflict with the roots of the holiday, which they say will continue. On a recent Zombie Walk in which hundreds paraded through Mexico City in corpse disguises one week before the Day of the Dead most participants said it was just good, clean fun.

We are not fighting against our cultural traditions, said Jesus Rodriguez, one of the organizers, as he waved a fake plastic arm he was gnawing on. On the contrary, if you take off the zombie*s flesh, there are skeletons, there are Catrinas.

Mexicos traditional view of the dead is not ghoulish or frightful. The dead are seen as the dear departed, people who remain close even after death. Could outside influences threaten that?

I dont think that will change, Angel said. I think Mexico maintains the sense of remembering the dead with closeness, not fright.

Any opportunity for a festival is welcome and with any influences from at home or abroad, and in all possible combinations.

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