For the last seven years, I’ve photographed the Day of the Dead in Mexico, ever since I moved to a colorful lakeside pueblo in the subtropical central highlands of Jalisco.

This is everyday Mexico and like much of the country, it’s caught in the paradox of guarding its storied past, while still demanding the same modern benefits, opportunities, and social advancements aspired to by any person, living anywhere in the world today. Part of the beauty of Mexico is how its people, which even today still consists of 65 unique indigenous groups, manage to flow and meld through the centuries of external influence, from pre-Aztec times to the Spanish conquest of the 16th century, through to today.

The Day of the Dead: Images of Mexico’s World-Famous Fiesta

The Day of the Dead and the concept of the fiesta, in general, is some of the cultural connective tissue which continues to bind families and traditions together to the current day.

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Day of the Dead Altars

The construction and observance of an altar is usually at the center of the Day of the Dead traditions. More than 30 kinds of offerings are left at altars in Jalisco, each with its own meaning and reason for being left out.

An altar for a woman in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, Jalisco, Mexico

A large streetside altar for friends and family on the Day of the Dead, with fresh fruit, beer and tequila, plates of cooked meat, marigolds and other offerings

A grave decorated for a child on the Day of the Little Angels in the graveyard in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. Although November 2 is the main celebration, the Days of the Dead span three days and nights starting on October 31.
A grave decorated for a child on the Day of the Little Angels in the graveyard in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. Although November 2 is the main celebration, the Days of the Dead span three days and nights starting on October 31.
This Day of the Dead altar was built by a woman named Beatriz on November 1, 2015 for friends and family, including her teenage grandson.
This Day of the Dead altar was built by a woman named Beatriz on November 1, 2015 (el Día de los Angelitos) for friends and family, including her teenage grandson. The spirits’ arrival is not a symbolic visit, at least not to the more devout observers who maintain such traditions as sitting through the night at the family grave in the local cemetery.

An altar for the 43 presumably murdered students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers' College who went missing in 2014.

The Day of the Dead altar is built to welcome the dead back for their overnight journey to the living. Families leave offerings such as favorite foods or alcohol, as well as practical comforts such as soap and water, and clothes. For this altar, the family has dressed a mannequin with the deceased clothes and sombrero.

An elaborate altar in Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, Jalisco, Mexico, on the Day of the Dead.

Marigold flowers hang at an altar on the Day of the Dead in Chapala, Mexico.

600 terracotta skulls are lit up by candles, each representing a deceased town or family member.

Emptied Corona bottles line the rear of an altar on Noche de Muertos 2015 in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico.

A Folger's coffee can serves as a vase for flowers on the Day of the Dead in Ajijic, Mexico.

Papel Picado

Papel Picado on the Day of the Dead
Papel Picado on the Day of the Dead
Hand-cut papel picado hangs above a grave in the Ajijic cemetery on the Day of the Dead.
Hand-cut papel picado hangs above a grave in the Ajijic cemetery on the Day of the Dead.
For sale as a fine art print
Day of the Dead in Chapala, Jalisco. Panteón municipal.
Chapala, Jalisco – Panteón Municipal

Papel picado hangs over a grave on November 1, 2010, in the Ajijic cemetery.

A boy walks through the Ajijic cemetery on the Day of the Dead 2010. The hanging papel picado is a Mexican folk art, created by hand using a chisel and a block of paper.

Visiting Dead Family in the Cemetery

Musicians play in the Chapala, Jalisco, graveyard on the Day of the Dead.

A woman selling cotton candy in the Chapala, Jalisco, graveyard walks by a tomb decorated with coronas on the Day of the Dead

Flower arrangements and coronas line a tomb in the graveyard in San Antonio Tlayacapan.,

Marigolds left on and old headstone in the graveyard in Chapala, Jalisco.

La Noche de Muertos

Day of the Dead altar

Candles on a grave light up the offerings left behind by family in the Ajijic cemetery.

A woman's portrait is illuminated by candlelight on November 1, 2015, in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

Catrinas

Catrina on the Day of the Dead
A catrina on the Day of the Dead in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico.
For sale as a fine art print
A catrina holds a candle on the noche de muertos in Chapala, Jalisco.
A catrina on the Day of the Dead in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico.

 

Two kids as catrines in the cemetery in Ajijic, Mexico.
Two catrines refuse to let you pass without first taking a photo on the Day of the Dead in Ajijic, Mexico. They were gathered with relatives, both living and dead, at the family plot in the local graveyard.
For sale as a fine art print

The entrance or entrada of an ofrenda on the Day of the Dead.