Your flight tickets are ready, your room at Playa Palms Beach Hotel is booked, luggage is packed and you even googled Playa del Carmen and know which places you want to see. In other words, you are all set for your vacation in the Riviera Maya. But there is one more thing you could do that will have a big impact on your trip: learn some useful words in Spanish!
One of the biggest draws in Mexico is without a doubt the iconic Chichen Itza, the remains of a big Maya city. Impressive enough as it is, only twice a year you can witness a truly awe-inspiring event.
Every culture has a different way of dealing with death. Mexico’s way, besides of being known worldwide, sure is the most colorful and joyful.
In pre-Columbian times, death didn’t have the moral connotation it has today. The indigenous didn’t believe in paradise or hell. Instead, death was the beginning of a journey to the underworld, and depending when or how someone died, they would travel to different places. The deceased were buried with objects they’d need on their journeys, sometimes even with their pets to accompany them. After the Spanish conquest, the indigenous beliefs merged with catholic customs, which resulted in a very special way of Catholicism in the Americas.
El Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is such a product of the syncretism of pre-Colombian, indigenous culture with the catholic religion, brought by the Spaniards. It’s celebrated from October 31 to November 2, which coincides with All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day. October 31 until November 1 is dedicated to the children, while November 2 is dedicated to the adults. During these days, the living and the dead are joined. It’s believed that the deceased come back to earth, to spend the day with their families and to comfort them. Altars are prepared, with food and offerings, ofrendas, for the deceased and their graves are visited and decorated. Some families have proper picnics on the graveyard, hiring even mariachis. Children’s graves are often decorated with colorful garlands and balloons.
The most prominent feature in the Day of the Dead celebrations is the altar, since it shows the souls the way to their homes. Families build their altars on the days leading to October 31. It’s usually arranged on a table top or from stacks of crates and draped with table cloth. The altars can be very sophisticated, or simple – but they all contain the same basic ofrendas:
- An image of the deceased – so they recognize their altar.
- A crucifix
- Copal and incense. Copal is said to purify and clean the house from bad energies, while incense sanctifies it.
- Papel picado, perforated, colorful paper, to decorate the altar and remind of the cheerfulness of this festivity.
- Candles are lit, one for each deceased, to light their way.
- Water, because they arrive thirsty from the long journey.
- Salt is said to purify the souls.
- Flowers, traditionally Cempasúchitl, its strong smell guides the soul towards the altar. Some people also display a path from the door or the window to the altar.
- Skulls, mostly made of sugar, symbolizing death and the afterlife.
- Food, since the souls arrive hungry. It’s part traditional food, like tamales or mole and seasonal fruits, but also any kind of food they liked.
- Pan de muerto, a sweet bread decorated with bone shaped pieces, as a representation of the Eucharist.
- Alcohol, usually tequila, or whatever the deceased’s favorite drink was.
- Personal objects, like for example books if they loved to read, or toys for children.
The Day of the Dead, is celebrated in several Latin American countries, but nowhere as extensive as in Mexico.It’s a beautiful way to commemorate our deceased, where death isn’t seen with contempt, but simply understood as a part of life, and cherished as such. Day of the Dead truly is rather a celebration of life – instead of mourning our loved ones they are remembered with joy and love.
If you’re staying at Playa Palms Beach Hotel check our out our beautiful altar!
Cinema lovers get ready! We are excited to announce that the Riviera Maya Film Festival is returning for its fifth edition. From this Friday June 24 to June 30, national and international movies will be screened in different locations in Playa del Carmen. And the best part? It’s free of charge!
The independent film festival aims to provide independent filmmakers with an international platform and to bring quality films to the state of Quintana Roo. For all of us, it’s mostly a huge opportunity to watch a world class selection of the newest films in the gorgeous settings of the Riviera Maya. And did we mention that the public has access for free? Yes, we did. But some things are worth mentioning twice.
If you’re looking for the glamour that all the film festivals come with, get an entry to one of the gala events. These are special screenings that are attended by honored guests, among them the cast of the film, directors and producers. It’s also free of charge, but you have to register here.
The Riviera Maya Film Festival shows movies from different categories: Among them the Mexican platform and Rivierlab section, with national movies, Large-scale audience selection with international movers and the Planetarium selection, with movies and documentaries highlighting topics such as environmental issues, human rights and other subjects about our contemporary society. The two most outstanding national films will be awarded with an economic support, to encourage the distribution of Mexican movies and the creation of international independent films.
The screenings are held in cinemas, the city’s theatres, public places such as the beach or plazas. All Spanish speaking movies are subtitled in English. And the festival continues until July 16 with screenings in Cancun, Tulum, Puerto Morelos and Isla Mujeres.
Get all the information about the Riviera Maya Film Festival 2016, participating movies, trailers, and the locations on the official website and on their Facebook page. Of course our team at the front desk at Playa Palms Beach Hotel and Carlos, our concierge, are also happy to assist you with any questions.
Some of the most anticipated movies of the Riviera Maya Film Festival 2016:
- Pedro Almodóvar’s “Julieta” will be the opening movie of the festival. It made its international debut at the renown Cannes Films Festival this year. It’s an Almodóvar film – do we have to explain much about it?
- The Mexican documentary “Erosión” highlights the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources in Playa del Carmen and the northern region of the state, as the price paid for touristic development
- The rather bleakly comic satire “Maquinaría Panamericana” is a Mexican-Polish film that won the “Work in Progress” Award of last year’s Riviera Maya Film Festival. The movie traces the effects of a company owner’s death on his former employees, which are now suddenly out of a job. But, much worse, it turns out that the company is bankrupt…
Are you traveling with kids? Here are some places and restaurants your whole family will enjoy during your vacation in Playa del Carmen.