The Day of the Dead is celebrated in full form in the towns at Lake Chapala.
Check out Jocotepec, San Juan Cosalá, Ajijic, San Antonio Tlayacapan, Chapala and Ixltahuacán de los Membrillos. All will be holding celebrations in their central plazas and cemeteries.
Both November 1 and November 2 are excellent days to go to the cemetery to see families cleaning out old decorations and putting up new ones.
All of the objects left on altars have meaning. Learn about the meaning behind 25 objects found on altars in the local towns or watch this short video:
Last updated September 21, 2019
Photos of Day of the Dead
November 1: Día de los Angelitos
The "Day" of the Dead is actually three days long and starts on October 31. El Día de Muertos was a summer holiday prior to the Spanish takeover of the country, when it was moved to coincide with the Catholic Allhallowtide triduum. No real activities take place on October 31, at least in Ajijic, which is too busy celebrating the feast for the Virgin of the Rosary, the town's patroness.
November 1 is the Children's Day or Day of the Little Angels. Families who have lost children go to the cemetery on this day to decorate graves. It's said that the children, eager to get back to the world of the living, run ahead of their elders and arrive early, before the main events on November 2.
The Night of the Dead parade usually starts at 7:30 p.m. at the cemetery and heads east along Ocampo and Hidalgo until it reaches the plaza.
The center of the Day of the Dead celebration is the graveyard, where families come to gather around graves and remember the lives of loved ones and friends.
Don't wait until November 2 to visit the cemetery. There's just as much going on the day before. Families spend both afternoons replacing old decorations and putting in new plants, making everything bonito for the Noche de Muertos on November 2.
Candles illuminate many of the altars both nights in the stillness of the night, which normally has fine weather. Families in Ajijic do not spend the night at the cemetery, unlike places such as Pátzcuaro in neighboring Michoacán. By midnight, the cemetery is mostly empty, apart from a few people coming and going.
Day of the Dead in Chapala
Chapala hosts a number of Day of the Dead events, the biggest of which are the rows of altars which line the block leading to the malecón. Most of these altars are made by kids from the local preparatory schools, who get graded at the end of the night by their teachers. Students build altars dedicated to famous Mexican and world figures, based on a certain theme.
Other members of the community and businesses also set up altars here throughout the afternoon of November 2. Lots of people show up to this event by late evening. Candles are lit around 6 p.m.
Cinco de Mayo Street in Chapala
A couple blocks from all the action at the malecón, families along Cinco de Mayo street set up altars on the evening of November 2. This tradition seems to be petering out. Last year, only about a half-dozen houses put altars outside. You might still find some altars on this here, but most people are now setting up altars with the prep schools by the malecón.
During the day, the cemetery in Chapala is a good place to see families remembering loved ones on November 1 and 2. But it closes by 9:00 p.m., so don't plan on a late-night visit.
Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos
Ixtlahuacán will be putting on its fourth Festival de Día de Muertos in 2018. Like last year, hundreds of people will compete over four days for serious cash prizes. This year the total amount being given away is $285,000 pesos ($15,000 USD).
Contests include best altar, best corona, best tapete, and two catrina contests: one for catrinas dressed as brides and another general competition open to everyone.
Though still a relatively new festival in Ixtlahuacán, people come from Guadalajara and surrounding towns to compete.
The altar contest this year will be held on November 3 and is highly recommended, with some of the finest altars in the area. People spend the day building altars, which are lit at 8 p.m.
This entire avenue gets shut down from the highway to the plaza and on November 3 and 4, most of the blocks will be lined with altars.