Xcaret Park Celebrates 11th Annual Festival of Life and Death

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The dead returned to Earth for several days only -- or, at least, visitors honored the memories of passed loved ones -- through a collection of art and music at Riveria Maya’s Xcaret Park earlier this month.

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Xcaret park in Riviera Maya held a celebration in honor of the Festival of Life and Death from Monday, Oct. 31, to Wednesday, Nov. 2. More than 40,000 visitors attended the event, which included a celebration presented by the festival’s featured Mexican state, Puebla. Residents of Puebla demonstrated Atlixcáyotl, a cultural festival of music and dance from Atlixco, which takes place every year on the last Sunday of September on the hill of San Miguel.

The Festival of Life and Death has been held at Xcaret since 2006. The annual festival was created to promote the preservation of Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations, a holiday recognized by UNESCO as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

During the past 11 years, the festival has featured celebrations from the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Michoacán. Each have come to Xcaret to demonstrate their representations and expressions of dance, music, theater, traditional cuisine, painting, photography, and the ancestral altars of the dead from their respective regions.

This year the famous “Chinas and Charros” of Atlixco and the Dance of the Negritos of Zacatlán performed. The festival also spotlighted altars, gastronomic samples, dance, music and crafts from Huaquechula, Tochimilco, Izúcar de Matamoros, Cuetzalan, Chignahuapan, San Andrés Cholula, Hueyapan, Tlatlauquitepec, Pahuatlán and Huauchinango. In addition, the city of Puebla exhibited a monumental altar, designed by maestro Rodolfo Villena Hernández, first place winner of the "Great Prize of Popular Art.”

Singer Lila Downs performed "Bullets and Chocolate,” from her newly record material that focuses on hope and a better future for all. The festival also included Don Ignacio López Tarso performing his piece "Among Graves, Living and Dead,” accompanied by Northern musicians “Los de García,” directed by maestro Manuel Cervantes, and led by the female voice of Sofía Montaño.

The Maya, just like any other Mesoamerican culture, expressed a deep interest in death, which can be seen in its artistic manifestations throughout different periods of time.

For ancient and contemporary Mayan people, the dead are alive, meaning that their spirits are in need of support, just as the living are. That’s the reason people cook their favorite dishes for the deceased: to give them energy during their journey to the underworld. In addition,the Catholic feast of All Saints and All Souls, liturgies introduced by the Spanish, resulting in a syncretic practice of the Hanal Pixán.

Hanal Pixán, Day of the Dead or All Saints Day, is one of the most intimate practices of the people of the Yucatan Peninsula, and has the virtue of bringing together many family members.

It is a time of returning. The living, who for various reasons were absent from the family bosom, return to take part in preparation for this celebration. The souls of the dead return to share food, specially cooked with love for them by the living, so the living and the dead can be reunited again. That is how from family to family, from one generation to another, this ancient tradition has been kept alive through the centuries.

Xcaret is one of Mexico's ecotourism destinations located on the shore of the Caribbean Sea. There are three Underground Rivers surrounded by magnificent natural scenery. The area also features amazing marine and land species, protected by Xcaret’s conservation programs. More than 300 performers exhibit the history, culture and folklore of Mexico and delicious varieties of international cuisine are featured in the Park. Xcaret Park was recognized as the Best International Theme Park and the Best Water Park in the world by US travel agents, in the 2016 Travvy Travel Awards.

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Iliana Rodriguez
Experiencias Xcaret
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