In a pandemic year, Mexico’s Day of the Dead will be more moderate

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Woman harvests Cempasuchil marigolds to be used in Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations in Ciudad Juarez

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By Josue Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Marigolds, known in Mexico as “the flower of the dead” for a scent believed to be strong and sweet enough to draw souls and bring them back, are usually all around in mid-October as the day of the dead is approaching.

But with the country surpassing 85,700 official deaths from the coronavirus pandemic this year, the bright orange color was not as prominent as Mexican officials said cemeteries would remain closed for the November 2 celebration.

“There have been a lot of losses this year,” said Concepcion Cruz, who is cultivating concern in Mexico City. She said only about half of the flowers are grown this year as they would normally be planted for the annual vacation.

Restoring the celebrations is a sacrifice that must be made if Mexico is to curb the spread of the pandemic, said Columba Lopez, director of Mexico City’s Commission on Natural Resources and Rural Development.

“People have to stay at home,” he added.

The Day of the Dead tradition combines Catholic rituals with the pre-Hispanic belief that the dead return once a year from the underworld.

Cemeteries, public gardens, and homes light up bright orange as marigolds are planted everywhere throughout October.

At home, Mexicans build altars adorned with photographs of the deceased, marigolds, candy twigs, papier-mâché skeletons and chocolate coffins.

The dead are also offered their favorite food, pastries, tequila, and cigarettes – or anything that might entice them back from the underworld.

With cemeteries closed but more dead to remember this year, Mexicans are planning more private commemorations for loved ones.

“This year is very special because my family members have died from COVID-19,” said Dulce Maria Torres, who was buying flowers at a traditional market in the Mexican capital. “It’s important to me and we want to make them a great offer.”

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