After 12 long months at home in Calgary, Canada we’ve finally begun the next chapter for our expat experiment. Spending all that time back in familiar territory, we had lot’s of time to figure out where we wanted to try living next.
Although, like the other times we’ve been back home, finally deciding on our next destination was a long and convoluted process.There are still so many places around the world we want to see!
But we did finally decide, and the winner was Mexico. And our first stop is Puerto Vallarta!
Rob visited P.V. back in January this year to have some dental work done. During his 10 day stay, he had a chance to explore the city a bit. His findings are what initiated our decision to make Puerto Vallarta the first stop on our Mexico expat experiment.
As a rule, we have awful timing when leaving any destination to travel to the next. Usually, the weather’s great where we’re leaving and not so great where we’re going.
It’s our unrelenting quest for cheap airfares that leads to our terrible timing.
This time was different, though. We wanted to arrive in Puerto Vallarta before The Day of the Dead (El Dia de Los Muertos) celebrations. And lucky for us a great price for a direct flight from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta came up for October 29th, so we booked it! We would be arriving in P.V. at the tail end of the thunderstorms and oppressive summer heat.
Just in time for warm temps and lower humidity.
Being back in Canada for as long as we were this time, Makai had the chance to participate in every Canadian holiday and celebration. Halloween is definitely one of his favorites so making it to P.V. in time for The Day of the Dead celebrations was a priority for us.
We think one of the best ways to get a feel for a culture is to participate in local celebrations. El Dia de Los Muertos is a Latin American holiday celebrated from late October to November 2nd. Mostly associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated, it’s a happy time marked with festivals, parades, and lively celebrations to honor dead loved ones.
It is in stark contrast to what we are used to for Halloween: creepy, scary stuff. El Dia de Los Muertos is a beautiful joyful time- nothing creepy or scary about it!
The experience was very different. Here’s what we enjoyed over the three days of The Day of the Dead revelry from October 31st (Halloween) to November 2nd (All Souls Day).
Halloween October 31st
Trick or treating, going door to door to collect candy, isn't a thing in Puerto Vallarta as far as we could tell. But, costumed kids flooded the Malecón along the beach bordering Old Town Puerto Vallarta where shop owners and random residents were handing out treats and candies.
There were elaborate El Dia de Los Muertos shows and a litany of ornately dressed street performers. Music filled the night flowing from bars and bands playing along the Malecón. Mak's favorite part was the living statues.
The focus was more on kids enjoying each other's costumes, celebrating, and the street performers than seeing how much candy could be collected. Makai's Ork costume impressed more than a few people!
A holiday more about community than commercialism- it was a Halloween we'll always remember.
El Dia de Los Muertos- All Souls Day November 2nd
There was so much happening in and around Puerto Vallarta for Dia de Los Muertos. We decided to check out two of the busiest celebrations in the city; a visit to the oldest cemetery in P.V. (located on December 5th street) for a free tour to learn about its history and the traditions surrounding the holiday in the morning, and the "Death is Alive" parade that began at the front gates of the cemetery at 5 pm.
The tour took about 45 minutes and led us all around the labyrinth of graves. When I had first read about visiting the cemetery I thought it would feel strange and be disrespectful to go and watch people pay their respects.
But it wasn't like that at all.
As our guide showed us around the cemetery we could see people painting gravestones and monuments, laying out bright flowerers, colorful wreaths, and candles to help light the way back for the departed to visit the living on that day. Everyone looked happy, smiling and welcoming visitors. The atmosphere was joyful, and calm not somber or sad.
That was the coolest part of the tour. Not the things we saw, although what we did see was beautiful, but more the things we felt.
The "Death is Alive" Parade
The Death is Alive procession is a hot, fun, kinda haphazard affair that proceeds in fits and starts down the cobbled streets from the cemetery all the way down to the Malecón and main square.
The parade was a mix of women dressed like La Catrina (the grand dame of the day of the dead), dancing horses, revving motorcycles, mariachi bands, and skeletons everywhere!
People on stilts, little girls riding on the hoods of cars, horns blaring, tubas and trombones booming.
It was a colorfully complex, ornate, go with the flow parade like we'd never seen before.
It was amazing to experience The Day of the Dead in Puerto Vallarta. Another reason why we think fall is the best time to visit P.V.
Everything we saw for the holiday was awesome but what we felt- the atmosphere in Puerto Vallarta, was even better.
We think we're going to enjoy getting to know this city better. What we've learned so far makes us glad Puerto Vallarta is our first stop in our Mexico expat experiment.
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