Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is one of my favorite holidays and last year I celebrated it at Xcaret, the wonderful eco park just south of Playa del Carmen. There were vendors selling the most delicious gooey center macaroons, Yucatan style pork wrapped in banana leaves and cooked underground over hot coals, fresh salsas, guacamole and gorditos filled with spicy meats and sweet cheeses.  

The celebration honors those who have departed and are said to come back, at least in spirit, on this holiday. to honor the dead, elaborate and brightly colored tableaus like the one above are designed. There's a mystical quality about  Dia de los Muertos but nothing somber or scary. The idea is about love and remembrance, much different than our Halloween. We watched pageants, feasted, wondered around and finally ended up at the entrance of the cemetery at Xcaret, a display of tombstones and mausoleums which have been reproduced from actual cemeteries through Mexico.  

There's a long line as we made our way up a winding hillside path lit by candles that cast shadows on these works of art that like the tableaus are colorful and intriguing.

It's typical on these evenings for people to paint their faces white with dark hollows and lines so they look skeletal as Caterinas (those diva like skeletons often wearing fancy hats and long sequined gowns) and skeleton figures are also part of the pageantry during the holiday. And of course, there are skulls everywhere -- blue skulls with silver glitter and assorted glittering jewels or carmine with gold glitter and rainbow hued sequins made out of hallowed gourds, green skulls with painted flowers made of clay and the ultimate -- candy skulls made of sugar or chocolate.

Mexican Sugar Skulls

1 cup sugar
1 tsp. meringue powder
1 tsp. water
Plastic skull molds (each skull takes about ½ cup of sugar)
Sequins, color frosting

Mix together sugar, meringue powder and water with your hands until it feels like damp sand.

Pack into molds, carefully turn out onto a flat surface and let hard 23 hours before decorating.

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