The Todos los Santos y Día de los Difuntos (All Saints and Day of the Dead) is a religious holiday that takes place during the first few days of November every year. Ecuador families visit the gravesites of their ancestors and bring offerings of food, flowers, drinks, and prayers. It is a day set aside to remember departed family members. However, far from being overly solemn, the celebration tends to be somewhat festive and has a bit of a carnival atmosphere. Families gather in large numbers in the town cemeteries. While there, they pay respect to their departed family members but also socialize with the families around them. Young children play on the gravestones and chase each other around the cemetery. The adults pray, laugh and joke with the people around them. Outside the cemetery walls, vendors sell all kinds of food and drink, as well as the traditional guaguas de pan (decorated bread dolls) and colada morada (a sweet drink made from blueberry, blackberry and other fruit in corn flour base).
My impressions of this holiday are very positive. I think it’s nice that families set aside one day a year to think about their elders and those who have passed away. I also think it’s kind of nice for the kids to see that cemeteries and the subject of death don’t have to be just scary or to be avoided. Not that a cemetery is a giant playground, but it is nice to see people viewing death as just a natural part of the cycle of life, and not being afraid to hang out in a cemetery for one day a year and pay homage to their departed loved ones.
Click here to see all 45 photos of the Day of the Dead festivities in Otavalo