Category Archives: Day of the Dead

2-Night Day of the Dead Pkg Reduced 20% at Hacienda Xcanatun – Sarah Brightman Concert to Coincide with Traditional Mexican Celebration

What a coincidence – one of Mexico’s most traditional holidays coincides
with a Sarah Brightman concert at Chichen Itza, and Hacienda Xcanatun cuts
its package price by 20% to make it more affordable for everyone.

Escape Halloween

Settle Into Hacienda Xcanatun’s 2-Night Day of the Dead Package Reduced 20%

Extra Bonus – Sarah Brightman in Concert at Chichen Itza

MERIDA, Mexico – This year, skip Halloween’s manufactured craziness.
Instead, using the luxurious 18th century sisal plantation, Hacienda
Xcanatun as home base, take part in the Yucatan’s deeply traditional Day of
the Dead (Dia de Muertos) celebrations held October 31st, November 1st and
2nd. It is a time of fond remembrance of deceased loved ones similar to a
family reunion of the living and the dearly departed. Markets, parks,
public spaces and cemeteries are filled with special offerings (ofrendas) of
sweet breads shaped like skeletons and bones; sugar or chocolate candies
fashioned into colorful skulls. As an added attraction this year, Sarah
Brightman, the well known British soprano, will be performing in concert at
Chichen Itza on the night of October 31, 2009. The ancient Maya ceremonial
center will provide an inspiring and magical backdrop for Ms. Brightman’s
eclectic repertoire, on the eve of the Day of the Dead festivities.

To celebrate both events, the elegantly restored Hacienda Xcanatun, now a
luxurious boutique hotel set in tropical gardens on the outskirts of Merida,
has designed a money-saving package for guests to enjoy both the Yucatecan
festivities and rituals surrounding Day of the Dead, and the Sarah Brightman
concert. Their 2 Night Weekend Getaway Special features a 20% reduction on
accommodations, along with seasonal extras. Tickets for the Brightman
concert must be purchased directly from Ticketmaster Mexico and range from
$39 to $616 per person. A van transfer from the hacienda to Chichen Itza,
approximately 1 ½ hours away is available upon previous request.

The 20% Off Day of the Dead 2-Night Special, valid from October 29 –
November 8, 2009,. space-available basis, ranges from **$424 to **$520,
single or double occupancy depending on the accommodation selected.
Additional nights can be added with the same savings.

The Getaway Includes:

* 2 night’s accommodations in a luxurious Superior Room or Deluxe
Suite. (Taxes and hotel service charge are additional).

* Daily Xcanatun Breakfast for two.

* Complimentary Mucbipollos (translated as “buried chicken” in Maya)
at breakfast or lunch, Friday Oct. 30 through Sunday, Nov. 1. Made only
during the holiday, the dough for this mouth-watering tamal is laced with
fragrant red achiote paste and stuffed with chicken, pork, tomato, onion,
and epazote. Securely wrapped in banana leaves, the huge tamal cooks in an
open pit and is perhaps the most favorite of the many specialty foods
prepared for these holidays.

Information on Day of the Dead activities is available from the front desk,
or a private guide can be arranged for touring the markets, competitions and
surrounding villages. Elaborate home altars are built in even the simplest
thatched huts, as well as private homes and exclusive haciendas and
decorated with seasonal flowers, candles and photos of beloved family
members. Favorite dishes, drinks and even “vices” like cigarettes and poker
chips, are placed on the altar to nourish and entertain the spirit of the
returning relatives. In keeping with traditions, an altar is erected at
Hacienda Xcanatun in memory of the owners’ past loved ones, along with
remembrances and offerings of the staff to loved ones.

Day of the Dead altar at Hacienda Xcanatun
Day of the Dead altar at Hacienda Xcanatun

Hacienda Xcanatun has 18 spacious accommodations decorated with hand-carved
furnishings and antiques. All of the rooms and suites have marble bathrooms
and access to private verandas. Facilities include two freshwater swimming
pools, an intimate Spa offering a wide range of holistic Maya and European
beauty/ wellness treatments, along with a gourmet restaurant highlighting
inventive fusion Yucatecan Cuisine. Golfers take note: the new championship
Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, El Jaguar, is 5 minutes away.

For information and reservations about the Day of the Dead Special call
Hacienda Xcanatun toll-free at 1-888-883-3633, or e-mail:

**Special Note: Once the reservation for this package is confirmed, the
first night stay is not refundable. The website is at

Oaxaca’s Day Of The Dead

David Simmonds

Thanks in part to the success of this Mexico Premiere web site, I was invited along on a press trip to Oaxaca for the annual Day of the Dead ritual, hosted by the Mexican Tourism Board and their excellent travel PR/Marketing firm, Newlink Group, based in Miami. It was a small group, four women and me, headed by Newlink’s Senior Account manager in charge of the MTB account, Sybelle Demarco. I’ve been on many Press Trips throughout the years, and this was clearly one of the best. Sybelle knows how to make death, faith and skeletons fun, no easy chore since I have no religion and hate death…mine or anyone’s.

Our accommodations were at newly renovated Los Pilares, a beautiful, serene boutique hotel located about a 15-minute walk from the historic zocalo, in the old cobble-stoned Jalatlaco barrio. The colonial building has a long history and was the site of a tanning factory for many decades. I can recommend Los Pilares for anyone visiting Oaxaca if you want to escape the more busy traffic near the touristy center. Start the day with a filling breakfast from their excellent kitchen at a sunny patio table.

Sybelle kept us busy from early morning well into the night, but that’s because there is so much to see in the area. She had the foresight to hire a great tour guide, Diego Cruz, owner of Ayuso Travel, an engaging local who knows his history and has a deep appreciation and  fierce pride in his people.

Instead of repeating what so many others have already written, I suggest this essay by Maria Diaz for a good overview of what The Day of the Dead is all about. From a personal view, I was surprised and relieved to find a general sense of happiness and fond remembrance by the locals who, it seems, all honor the occasion in the  traditional way. Although, I confess to feeling a bit intrusive walking about the gravestones at night as the families gathered to welcome the return of the deceased. They didn’t seem to mind the awkward tourists, in fact smiles and greetings were common from these gentle people. The scene was movie-set perfect with colorful altars, tears and laughter here, a mariachi band over there, a guy offering mescal shooters everywhere. To describe it as magical would demean the aura. It was more than that, and although I remain an unrepentant faithless skeptic, I gained a deep respect and understanding of what it means to so many fine people. The experience was a highlight of my many Mexico travels, ranking up there with the best sunsets I’ve witnessed over the Pacific, nestled in nature’s awesome jungle, at the end of a perfect day spent in the ocean. These are the times that challenge my stubborn views.

Of course, Oaxaca has much more to offer than a yearly ritual. The archaeological sites at nearby Monte Alban and Mitla are some of the country’s best, giving you a deep understanding of the advanced cultures that thrived in the Oaxaca valley centuries ago. And there are the many nearby villages populated by 16 different ethnic groups, each with their own language, that produce some of the world’s finest pottery and textiles. And on the southern coast, on the Pacific, are the beautiful bays of serene Huatulco, the quirky town of Puerto Angel, the nude beach at Playa Zipolite…a throwback bohemian hangout, and the epic waves at Puerto Escondido, still undiscovered by most Mexico travelers, but well-known to the surfing world elite.

So, if you’re wondering where you should go next, where you can fill every day experiencing something you have never done, for a price you can afford, give Oaxaca a try. Day of the Dead is celebrated fron October 31 to November 2, and the rest of the country is open for business year-round.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

by Ron Mader

Good news, everyone! My next big talk is being conducted for the Viva Travel Guides Boot Camp in Oaxaca, Mexico. I am giving a travel writing pep talk and looking forward to the exchange of ideas. Viva Travel Guides is one of the coolest Web2 sites that has figured out how to take the input from its contributors and create some of the most timely and insightful publications. Their Ecuador book is one of my faves and it will be interesting to see how they expand in their coverage of Mexico.

Typically I prefer the ‘on your own’ approach to travel writing to organized press trips. Most press trips are arranged in a hurry and for the herd mentality — covering far too much in a limited time. Add to this the factor that the organizers are often not well informed about the place in question and you have the recipe of misspent money and time. Now if we only had bootcamps for tourism officials and PR agencies!

Skyping with Viva Travel’s Paula Newton today, I told her she was visiting a magical place at a magical time. For anyone who can visit Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, it is a rich experience. Personally I am looking forward to touring Zaachila on Thursday’s Dia de Plaza to see the stacks of special breads made for the altars. On Saturday there is the inauguration of an altar at Alcala #902-Bis by local artist Spider. Throughout the week there are events and tours hosted by the Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast Association. Complete details are on the Oaxaca Wikispace.

Day of the Dead Altar, Oaxaca

Peso’s Decline, Traveler’s Gain

David Simmonds

I wake up every day now hoping to find some good news for my wallet. Where I live in SoCal housing values have tanked, including mine. Everyone I know is worth about half as much as they were two years ago. Well, maybe worth isn’t the best word to use…they are still fine, worthy people…for the most part. But they are now resolved to working about a decade longer than they had planned and Saturday nights are being spent watching Mad Men reruns and SNL instead of dining out and drinking expensive Scotch.

Oh well, did we really think we would get out of here without some tough times after hearing tragic tales of the Great Depression and WWII from our parents? All in all, we Boomers have had it pretty easy, now lets see what we’re made of now that 30 years of failed “trickle down” economics have left us trickled on and a little p.o.’ed  and confused.

So since I wasn’t paying attention I hadn’t noticed that my Mexico travels will be a little cheaper for a while. The peso has been roughly about 10 to the US dollar for a long time, floating between 9 and 11as the globalized market (whatever that is) dictates. But now suddenly the rate is 13.27 to the dollar, making a peso worth about 7.5 cents US and a 100 peso note is $7.50 instead of $10.00. Now this won’t affect most high-end tourist hotels that price in dollars, but the way I travel I should notice a real savings. A six-pack priced in pesos will be cheaper as will my meals at street tacos stands and family-run restaurants where the locals eat.  The domestic airlines that fly from city to city within Mexico will be even better deals than they were. Ditto for my rental car, bus and cab fares, bribe jewelry for my wife for leaving home, t-shirts for my kids (uh…gee thanks, Dad) and a new guayabera shirt for me…all about 25% less than the last time I traveled south.

I leave for Oaxaca in a couple of days on a press trip for Day of the Dead. I’ll let you know how my theory holds up.

Day of the Dead around the World

by Ron Mader

Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated throughout the Americas and combines ancient indigenous traditions and modern fanfare. It’s a whimsical and yet serious holiday that takes place between October 31st and November 2nd.

Mexico may have the most spectacular festivals in the hemisphere. Well known are festivities in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Mexico City.

YOUR TURN – We are seeking photos of the holiday in the Day of the Dead Group hosted on Flickr. Photographers are asked to share their own photos. Registration on Flickr — — is required.


Boo-hoo! Catholic Church Says Halloween = Satan

MP News Staff

Buaaaaahhhaaahhaaa!According to a report on Mexico City’s El Universal newspaper, the Catholic Church has issued a warning about Halloween to it’s millions of devotees through its weekly publication Desde la Fe, or From the Faith.

Linking this yearly festival to Satanic cults, the Archdiocese urges Catholics to avoid dressing as monsters, as the holiday goes against everything the Church represents.

The ecclesiastical institution dedicated the entire issue to the topic of the Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, comparing this traditional Mexican Celebration with Halloween. In one of the articles it stated that “Halloween honors a culture of death, a product of a mixture of pagan customs” and considers the feast “has identified closely with neopagan groups as well as celebrations of the occult and the Satanic.”

It warns that the festivities have become so closely related to the occult that on the night of the 31st of October, celebrants in Ireland, the United States, Mexico and many other countries hold Black Mass, ghostly cults and other congregations “related to evil and the occult.”

“If we want to be true to our faith and the values of our Gospel, we would have to conclude that today’s version of Halloween has nothing to do with the actual celebration of origin, that it has become harmful and against our Faith and our Christian way of life,” affirmed the Archdiocese.

The institution also disapproves of the traditional monster costumes, which it insists is related to “evil (witches, black cats, vampires, ghosts and terrifying monsters) promoted by satanist trends.”

The text advises Catholics to participate in the activities that take place in several of Mexico City’s parrishes to counteract the influence of Halloween, such as contests based on the lives of saints and the Catechism that is taught to the children in the days previous to the Feast of All Saints.

Preparing for Day of the Dead 2007

by Ron Mader

Mexico’s Day of the Dead is a holiday that combines ancient indigenous traditions and modern fanfare. It’s a whimsical and yet serious holiday that takes place between October 31st and November 2nd. All eyes will be on Oaxaca to see if this holiday spurs the lackluster tourism sector back to life.

Mexico may have the most spectacular festivals in the hemisphere. Well known are festivities in Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Mexico City. is launching a global group focusing on the Muertos holiday in 2007. Add your photos of altar preparation and festivities to the Day of the Dead 2007 Flickr group. Our only request is that you ask permission before you take photos that you add to this group.