Life imitated art this year in Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebrations, as the most recently released James Bond film Spectre served as the inspiration for an enormous Día de Muertos parade in the city’s historic centre. But what did the city’s residents think, and were they as impressed by Hollywood’s influence on the traditional celebrations?
Day of the Dead is a country-wide and sacred tradition in Mexico that is notable for its use of cempasúchil flowers, sugar skull iconography and celebration (not mourning) of those who are no longer with us. It’s iconic in more ways than one and it seems Hollywood picked up on that sentiment when it decided to feature an expansive and over-the-top Day of the Dead parade in the latest Bond film, Spectre.
While from a cinematographic standpoint, the scene of hundreds of revellers dressed as calacas (skeletons), with skulls painted on their faces and feathers in their hair was undeniably impressive, it was also far removed from the typical Mexico City Day of the Dead celebrations.
In fact, there had never—up until this year—been a Día de Muertos parade in the Mexican capital. Instead, families celebrated privately and although altares and ofrendas were displayed publicly in the zócalo and other municipalities, the scale was nothing like that seen in Spectre.
However, due to the overwhelming positive response to, and undeniable magnificence of the fictional parade immortalised forever on film, Mexico City authorities decided to organise a replica.
On Saturday, October 29, hundreds of spectators lined Paseo de la Reforma as they watched the Spectre-cle of acrobats, performers and giant puppets make their way to the zócalo.
Organisers of the parade claimed they took their cue from the Bond flick, and finally decided to give this typically Mexican celebration the big-budget appeal it needed to attract attention on a global, rather than national, scale. It was later confirmed that it would become an annual tradition.
While on the one hand many claim that the changes to Day of the Dead are positive, because it will ensure that younger generations continue to participate in this grand tradition, it’s clear to see why people are not happy with this new twist.
Students at Mexico City’s Cinvestav facility argued that a spectacle of this size and scale is not what Day of the Dead is about and worried that there’s the possibility for a loss of the old traditions altogether if U.S. influence continues to have an impact on Mexican celebrations. However, others pointed out that the addition of a new tradition doesn’t necessarily equate to an eradication of the old ones.