Day of the Dead parade – life imitates art

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in October 2016.

Story highlights

'Spectre' stunned audiences with its fake 'Day of the Dead' parade

Now Mexico City is hosting a parade inspired by the movie

CNN  — 

As the screen fades from black following the most iconic of movie soundtracks, a giant skeleton emerges, a cigar gripped in its jaws.

The streets are awash with color, spectacular costumes, masks, floats and flowers as the camera pans through the streets of Mexico City’s Dia de los Muertos parade.

For those who’ve seen the James Bond movie “Spectre,” you may have thought you were watching a traditional Mexican celebration. But no, you were in fact watching a lie. A work of fiction created for the movie. There is no parade and there never has been.

However, such was the interest in the film and the Day of the Dead parade itself, it’s forced the government of Mexico to think again and turn that fiction into reality.

Life imitates art

On Saturday, October 29, Mexico City will host its first ever Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) moving parade. It’s an event Mexico hopes will eventually rival the Carnival of Brazil.

The parade begins at 3 p.m. Mexico Central Time at the Angel of Independence and will end in the Zócalo, the city’s main square. It’ll last three to four hours and an estimated 150,000 or up to one million people are expected to watch the parade along its 3.5-kilometer route.

Alejandra González Anaya, one of the parade’s creative directors, explained to CNN why Mexico have decided now is the time to put on such a show.

“As a result of the James Bond film we have decided to take advantage of the spotlight and put on the streets a great offering which we give to our dead,” she says. “I think it’s an opportunity for all Mexicans to show the world what the tradition is made of.”

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Celebration of life

The Day of the Dead celebration dates back to Aztec and pre-Columbian times. It’s a celebration of life and teaches people not to be afraid of death, but to enjoy and take advantage of every moment.

The festival’s also a chance to honor the dead. It’s traditionally celebrated on November 1 and November 2 when Mexicans believe the gates of the afterlife are opened and their loved ones who have passed on return to join in the festivities.

“It is a tribute for all the people that have passed by this world,” explains González Anaya.

“We expect our dead to come back for just one night so we prepare their favorite drinks, their bread and their objects for them.

“At this moment Mexico is preparing a big party and creating a huge celebration with a new format in the city so the world can have a better look, a better window into who we are and to show one of the most important celebrations of our culture.”

The parade will be split into three parts: the pre-Columbian era where the celebration was born and created; the Colonial and Mestizo era; and the modern era that we have to come to know the celebration as today.

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1,200 volunteers

1200 volunteers have been preparing for Saturday's event.

“There are 1200 volunteers working for the parade alone,” González Anaya says. “We have worked for a year on this project. Volunteers have been rehearsing for three weeks now, every night, to be ready for the parade.

“We have wonderful costumes, wonderful props and we’ve had the opportunity to revisit the “Spectre”: James Bond props – created by Mexican artisans – from the movie which is great.”

González Anaya and her team hope to create a new annual tradition to showcase Mexico to the world.

“Though the parade did not exist in this format, it did exist in content, in tradition and its looks. So it’s wonderful to be able to rescue that and bring it to a new format and a new tradition for Mexicans.

“We’re really trying to find a new brand, a new identity, rescuing the old and creating another option for the world to be able to come to our country rather than take a trip to the carnival of Rio or the carnival of Venice.

“Now there’s also the Day of the Dead in Mexico. We want you all to come and know that it is a beautiful celebration, a beautiful party and a wonderful opportunity to know more about the beauty and depth of our culture.

“It’s super-important for our country to be seen that we can be organized and peaceful to deliver something that can be respected and inspiring for the world.”