A Travellerspoint blog

Death in Sayulita

semi-overcast 27 °C

We've been having sunny, life-affirming experiences in Mexico, so death and dying are not top of mind. However, you cannot be in Mexico for very long before the spectre of death comes up. Beach vendors sell papier mache skulls , and local stores stock the famous Catrina dolls - skeletons slyly depicted as elegantly dressed women to illustrate the democracy of death.


In Mexico, while grief is felt deeply, death is celebrated, and the dead are revered. La Dia de Muertos, (Day of the Dead), is a huge celebration every November 1 and November 2 , and is a distillation of ancient Aztec and Spanish Catholicism ceremonies. It is an opportunity to celebrate Mexicans' memories of loved ones, and the belief is that celebrations will keep those souls alive forever. An underlying message is to live life with the awareness that death is inevitable, so we can give our lives meaning. During this holiday, families build altars with offerings such as candy, fruit, marigolds, candles and photos to welcome the spirits of the departed.


Dia de Muertos altar

Cemeteries in Mexico are no less extravagant, and the small cemetery in Sayulita is a lovely example. It is set back in the jungle, between Sayulita's main beach and the smaller, more remote beach, called, appropriately, Playa Los Muertos. To reach the beach, you must climb up a dirt road that takes you right through the cemetery.


This gravesite is haunting - David Rodriguez - born September 1971, died September 2014 - died on or near his 43rd birthday. He died young, and under what circumstances? I've always been fascinated by cemeteries - they reveal just enough details about their inhabitants to pique interest, but in most cases, the details are unknowable, so you are left to imagine. Small families buried together, died on the same day - was it a car accident? A house fire?


Sayulita is a modest fishing village, and most of the inhabitants here are not wealthy. But, as we wandered through this small cemetery, we noticed that each gravesite was well-tended, with flowers, momentoes, photos, and crucifixes - their dead are gone, but not forgotten.



Entrance to Sayulita's cemetery

In Mexico, you cannot drive very far without seeing roadside shrines. Whether here or in Canada, these shrines are upsetting - needless death, senseless tragedy - and a reminder that this could happen to any of us. However, these vulnerable clusters of white crosses, teddy bears, candles and faded flowers do not seem to serve as a deterrant. Drivers still race around the "Curva Peligrosa" (dangerous curve) on the road from Puerto Vallarta to Sayulita, passing on this blind corner, right in front of the monument to the four lives that were lost there.

Right in the town of Sayulita, there are two very poignant shrines to young lives lost. The main street, Avenue Revolucion, runs through the centre of town, and leads over the bridge that divides Sayulita into north and south. Two or three years ago, a little girl was stuck and killed by a bus as it was making a U-turn right before the bridge, and naturally the entire town was devastated. As a result, buses no longer enter the town, and this shrine was erected as a memorial. (Not sure if the Coke bottle was intentionally placed)


The other shrine has more sinister undertones, and is a reminder of the collateral damage of the narco wars. The story behind this young man's death are murky, but go roughly like this. He ran a kiosk selling pirated CDs and DVDs, and he also attempted (this is heresay) to move in on the drug trade, and was apparently given a couple of chances to back off. He was at his stand when a car pulled up beside him and shot him on the street. His shrine, built across the street from his former kiosk, is powerful.


As I stopped to look at it, and read the inscription, a car drove by and the female passenger made a sign of the cross. I have to say, I had a similar inclination, lapsed Anglican that I am.

For now, our days are filled with beach, sun and an appreciation for life. Looking forward to discovering more about the darker sides of Mexico as our travels continue.

Posted by millerburr 09:40 Archived in Mexico

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Great work, Ginny! Keep it going. We're enjoying your journal

by Peter hohenadel

Democracy of death - well put, Mum!

by Alex Burr

I share your fascination in cemeteries; I remember studying the ones in New Orleans for quite some time wondering about the lives of the people that once walked this earth. Just thinking about that does seem to make you appreciate life more ... so, enjoy life as you continue on your travels!

by Heather Scott

loving the blog. keep em coming.

by Deb

Love to read your blog! Reminded me of my years in Paris when one of the only places to escape the summer heat was the cemetery du "Père Lachaise". Spent many hours there wandering and wondering....

by Laurence

Excellent and interesting post.

by Hawkson

Were it that here in Canada we adopted something like the Day of the Dead to honour our ancestors, most of whom are forgotten soon after they are buried. We really only honour our fallen soldiers (and at that only once a year). So few of us know anything much about our great grandparents or generations before them and never give them a single thought. HOwever, as seemingly uncaring as we are about our ancestors, life is held much dearer here than in Mexico, with its murderous history, past, present and probably future for some time to come!

by jon and linda

That title certainly caught my attention. Relieved to know it was about your fascination with cemetaries.

by Penny Goldrick

This is really,really good. See you in few days. Piotr

by Piotr Prusiewicz

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