Photo Of The Day: Day Of The Dead

Hope you all had a happy Halloween, and came up with some creative travel costumes (my family and I went as Matryoshkas, or Russian nesting dolls). Now that the calendar has flipped over into November, it’s a time to honor our beloved who have passed on All Saints’ Day, or as it is known in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos. Skeletons and skulls are a pretty common theme in Day of the Dead decor and art, as demonstrated by our own Pam Mandel’s Halloween costume, continuing on the scary feel of Halloween. The skulls in today’s Photo of the Day aren’t Mexican, they’re French, from the Paris catacombs, which contain the bones of millions of Parisians. The remains are made extra spooky with the company of a devil, of the stuffed toy Tasmanian sort, though I suspect he was an addition by Australian photographer BaboMike.

If you can’t make it to Mexico this year, Denver has some Day of the Dead events too.

We like being scared year-round, so add your spookiest shots to the Gadling Flickr pool for an upcoming Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user BaboMike]

Visit Denver For Dia De Los Muertos

If a ticket to Mexico isn’t in the cards for Dia de los Muertos this year, you might want to consider Denver. It may seem strange that a non-border state throws down so hard, but Denver is, after all, in the Southwest, and as such, has a thriving Hispanic community, as well as arts and culture scene. This colorful, oddly joyous holiday dates back to pre-Columbian times, and has its roots in pagan rituals celebrated by indigenous peoples, including the Aztecs.

If you want to skip the Halloween hangover (sugar or otherwise) and instead spend the Day of the Dead (which is technically November 1) honoring dead ancestors (it’s okay if they’re not yours) with dancing, eating and looking at traditional holiday arts and crafts, here’s the lowdown on what’s going on in Denver.

Today (Oct. 27), from 5 to 8 p.m., the Denver Botanic Gardens is hosting a flower-rific celebration that will include live music, art, dancing and traditional face painting. Flowers, and marigolds in particular, are a big part of Dia de los Muertos imagery.

On October 30, the Dia de los Muertos Celebration and Tattoo Artist Skull Show and Charity Auction will be held at El Diablo restaurant, starting at 8 p.m. Expect lots of “art skulls,” food, special cocktails, face painting and a silent auction.

The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council Gallery is displaying Dia de los Muertos artworks in various mediums, now through November 3.

On November 2, the Museo de las Americas will commemorate with altars and classes on making Dia de los Muertos crafts, such as elaborately decorated sugar skulls.

[Photo credit: Flickr user moonchild studio]

Mazatlan is safe, just ask the dead people

Crime in Mexico has had a big impact on tourism, causing everything from a US Department of State travel warning to major cruise lines canceling calls at Mexican ports. Gadling has been covering the story all along and readers have been quick to respond both for and against travel to Mexico. To make sense of it all, we went to Mazatlan, once a bustling Mexican cruise port, to see for ourselves.

The occasion was last week’s Fiesta Amigos, an annual four-day event that invites people in the travel business to experience all Mazatlan has to offer.

“What better way for visitors to experience the vibrant spirit of our beautiful city than during this lively fiesta,” says Carlos Berdegué, vice president, Mazatlán Hotel Association and Tourism Board. “Mazatlán presents a truly unique travel destination, with a charming, historic core alongside premier resorts, international sporting events, gourmet cuisine, year-round events and much more – all at great value. We invite Fiesta Amigos guests to immerse themselves in all that Mazatlán has to offer.”

OK, sure, but is it safe?

That was the big question so we jumped right in, sampling a number of local restaurants, walking the streets both day and night and engaging in activities common to tourists.

Everyone lived to tell about it.What we found was a safe, friendly community, steeped with tradition and geared to handle massive crowds of tourists. Yes, drug trade and gang-related crime problems are still very present in Mexico but happen in the northern part of the country, far away from Mazatlan.

In a test of safety, we walked the streets of Mazatlan on November 2nd during the Day of the Dead stroll and festivities. Held in Mazatlan’s old historic district, the centuries-old tradition, also called All Souls Day, honors those who have died with a walking procession through town in a Mardi Gras sort of way, celebrating life.

During the day, a visit to Mazatlan’s cruise port revealed a modern facility prepped and ready to go when cruise lines return.

“We highly value our long-standing relationships within the cruise industry, and are dedicated to ensuring that Mazatlan remains among the top cruise destinations on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. Mazatlan has hosted nearly 1.5 million cruise passengers since 2008 and is widely regarded as one of the safest destinations in Mexico.” said Julio Birrueta, spokesperson for the Mazatlan Tourism Trust last February.

Mazatlan is in it for the long-run and has taken steps to insure the safety of cruise passengers too. A 20-foot security wall supplemented by a guard tower overlooking operations insures passenger safety but a new 1300 foot pier that can accommodate up to four ships sits empty. When we visited the port, a lone cargo ship occupied the facility while workers continued an ongoing remodeling and construction project nearby.

The port boasted over 200 ship visits last year which quickly went down to about 30 this year after highly-publicized crime events chased cruise lines away. The port authority anticipates about a dozen calls next year.

But things are looking up for Mazatlan with Princess Cruises recently announcing a return in 2012 and other lines expected to follow. That’s good news to local merchants and service providers who rely heavily on tourism income and look forward to sharing a year-round calendar of events that includes international sporting tournaments, culinary fairs, eclectic cultural festivals and holiday celebrations.

The Quiksilver Surf Clásico Mazatlán is an international surf, music and fashion festival that happens in June. Mazatlán’s International Bike Week 2011 is an annual spring event when more than 15,000 Motorcycle fans gear up for five days of high-octane fun and adventure. Since Mazatlan is recognized worldwide as a first-class fishing destination, the Marina Mazatlán Fishing Tournament draws top anglers from around the world.

  Mazatlan has a lot to offer visitors coming by land, sea or air. Surely, travelers looking for trouble can find it anyplace on the planet. But in Mazatlan, they’re going to have to look pretty hard.

Photos/video: Chris Owen

Photo of the Day (10.31.10)

Happy Halloween! Er, should I make that Happy Day of the Dead? Believe it or not, America isn’t the only country that likes to celebrate spooky holidays. In Mexico and some parts of Latin America, November 2nd is the chosen day to remember and celebrate the lives of deceased ancestors. Though one might think a holiday about death would be a somber affair, it’s usually not. Much like Halloween, family and friends get together to laugh, eat some good food and pay tribute to those who have passed. The jolly skeletons captured here by Flickr user borderfilms (Doug) in Chiapas, Mexico are a common Day of the Dead decorating theme.

Taken any great photos during your travels? Why not add them to the Gadling group on Flickr? We might just pick one of yours as our Photo of the Day.