life imitating art

Mexico’s Day of the Dead parade embraces Hollywood version of Mexican tradition

MEXICO CITY— Life imitated art on Saturday when hundreds of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets of the capital to recreate a massive Day of the Dead parade immortalized in the opening scene of the James Bond film Spectre.

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Inspired by the latest 007 film, the Ministry of Tourism and the government of Mexico City orchestrated a massive chic and stylized celebration that included some of the actual props and floats used in Spectre. The opening 13 minutes of the film added to the international mystique surrounding Día de los Muertos, which, prior to Bond’s adventure in Mexico City, was always a private day to remember loved ones with homemade altars.

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But Hollywood helped turn it into a street party. And as a Mexican, I’m fine with that.

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Unlike the posh fiesta in the movie, the parade was actually an inclusive event, where all social classes gathered together in the streets and seemed to mingle as one (which is appropriate considering death is something we all eventually share in common).

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As I made my way down Avenida Reforma, I saw children and hipsters getting their faces painted like Mexico’s iconic skeletons known as catrines and catrinas. Foreigners and locals took scary selfies with zombies and devils, as Spanish mixed with English, German and Portuguese. Rich and poor were caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event.

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Everyone strolled side-by-side down streets decorated with colorful monsters known as alebrijes and finished in the Zocalo square, which was decorated with a massive art installation depicting the underworld.

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Predictably, not everyone liked the parade. There were some party poopers who complained about the “bastardization” of Mexican culture, and the government’s “misuse” of resources. “We definitely needed a fucking James Bond-themed parade,” a spectator bitterly joked. “Forget about education, crime and the god-awful traffic in this city.”

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But many people seemed to be enjoying themselves, even if it was a new twist to an old tradition.

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“This is what Mexico City is supposed to be,” a street makeup artist told me as he painted my face like a skeleton.

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I guess sometimes it takes the dead to remind the living to relax a bit and enjoy life.

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