What to Know About Nicaragua's Day of the Dead

Cemetery in Jinotega, Nicaragua
Cemetery in Jinotega, Nicaragua | © ENICOK / Flickr
Day of the Dead celebrations take place in many Latin American countries, and they each have their own particular twist. When many people think of Day of the Dead, it’s the Mexican celebrations that spring to mind, with the sugar skulls and the face paint. In Nicaragua, things are a little different.
People holding flowers at the General Cemetery in Managua © Diariocritico de Venezuela / Flickr

Looking after the family grave

Day of the Dead is naturally still a time to remember deceased loved ones, but it takes a different form in Nicaragua. Most of the activity here centres on the local cemetery, which buzzes with people buying flowers, food and drink, both inside and outside the cemetery. One of the main things that people do is perform some maintenance on the family tomb, whether that means cleaning it or repainting it. Weeds are removed, dust from the volcanic soil is wiped away and the crypt is given a new lease of life.

Matagalpa cemetery, Nicaragua © Dr Colleen Morgan / Flickr

A vibrant colour palette

Then some people place on the graves elaborate displays of flowers that they’ve brought with them or bought from the many vendors. In some cemeteries it’s a riot of colour, and the crypts themselves are often painted in bright tones which contrast with the sombre graveyards in many other countries. Evidently, people around the world have many different relationships with death and the dead.

While the general atmosphere is fairly upbeat, it’s not a party like the ones you will come across in Mexico or certain parts of Guatemala. People go to pay their respects and tidy up the graves, not to drink and dance.

Religious statues outside the cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua © Zenia Nuñez / Flickr

Be respectful if you visit the cemeteries

If you want to observe Day of the Dead in Nicaragua, you can go to any local cemetery. People don’t generally mind visitors walking around, as long as they remain respectful of local customs.

Don’t shout or fool around, just have a quiet stroll and spend some time in the cemetery. Photographers will be pleased to know that taking pictures should be fine, too, as long as you are respectful.