This October Toto Tours has put together a fantastical adventure into the heart of ancient Mexican culture, not just to witness but to join in the gorgeous celebrations of Dias de Muertos, The Day of the Dead. Predating the Spanish conquest by hundreds of years, the festival is a blending of native Mexican cultural rituals and Catholic All Saints celebrations. The festival is a national smirk into the face of…well…death. It is sort of… “Death, Ha! I mock you!” For days in advance people gather brilliant yellow marigold flowers and shop for the choicest ingredients for traditional delicacies. Families build elaborate altars in their homes to honor the memory of loved ones and decorate them with flowers, candles, photographs, mementos, food and cast sugar skulls! Families leave a trail of marigolds from their doors to the cemetery where their loved ones rest so that on the nights of November 1 and 2 the spirits of ancestors can find their way home. People dress in amazing elaborate 19th century—even Aztec—costumes. With masks and colorful face paintings, everyone becomes a grinning skeleton, angel of death, a dead bandito, a whimsical apparition—death is just a big joke and nobody is afraid! All night long there are picnics and singing and tequila and testimonials and poetry and more tequila as whole families spread out feasts of tamales, classic breads decorated with white bones and every delicious dish “uncle Julio” loved.
Let me whet your appetite and tell you a bit about the tour Toto has planned for this October that starts in the astonishingly beautiful city of San Miguel de Allende. San Miguel is a World Heritage Site nestled high in the mountains with the most heavenly climate. The city is a dream of golden domes and church spires, cathedrals and elegant buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Beautiful public squares, fountains, restaurants, shopping—San Miguel is a city you can never forget. A frequent Toto traveler and artist, Danny Cameron, has a charming home in San Miguel and all are invited for rooftop cocktails overlooking the city at sunset! What could be more exclusive?
After three days in San Miguel the group heads to Morelia. Morelia has a bit of a…uh… reputation. It is known to have the best gay bars in Mexico! (I close my eyes and hear Ricardo Montalban saying: “We have the best gay bars in all of Mexico!”) Dazzling and exotic bars like Rojas Pop, Open Mind, and Mama no lo Sabe (“Mama doesn’t know”…but I’m thinking she does) offer another kind of cultural experience not to be missed! Yikes! What happens in Morelia….
The tour moves on from village to village around beautiful Lake Patzcuaro, with plenty of eating and shopping and ancient ruins, until the Days of the Dead arrive. This is when things get really interesting. Toto has engaged an expert face painting artist to come to the hotel. If it were me I would pack an old tuxedo jacket and a black t-shirt! Grinning skulls all around! Out into the night, hopping from cemetery to cemetery and over the lake by private boat to the hauntingly beautiful Isla de Pacanda—this will be a night you will never forget! This is an experience you can never duplicate, and you will share it with the best of friends. In an atmosphere like Carnival, who knows what will happen or who you will meet? How can anyone resist this adventure?
Click here to read the itinerary and get ready to smirk in the face of death!
Dan Gregory has worked behind the scenes researching locations for Toto Tours since 1992.