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Visitors flock to Mexican town known for lavish Day of the Dead altars

By Gabriela Garcia Guzman

Puebla, Mexico, Nov 2 (EFE).- With altars up to 5 m (16 ft) tall, residents of the central Mexican town of Huaquechula have taken the tradition of honoring departed loved ones on the Day of the Dead to another level.

Thousands of Mexican and foreign tourists pour into this community in Puebla state to marvel at the elaborate altars and share in the holiday feast.

Composed of multiple levels loaded with the favorite dishes and beverages of the deceased, the altars are adorned with flowers, candles and images of children or angels.

The unique aspect of the tradition in Huaquechula is that the Day of the Dead honors are reserved for those who perished in the preceding 11 months.

This year, that means 31 altars, assembled at a cost ranging from 60,000-200,000 pesos ($3,000-$10,000).

The first level of the altar, representing the terrestrial world, has a photograph of the dearly departed, but placed so that the viewer sees the image reflected in a mirror, rather than directly.

Symbolizing the sky, the second level features an icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe – Mexico’s patron saint – surrounded by white satin arranged to resemble clouds.

The structure is topped by a crucifix that signifies heaven.

Huaquechula native Efrain Tellez told EFE that the altar he erected at his home for his father, Adolfo Tellez, who passed away Oct. 13, set him back the equivalent of $4,200.

Another resident, Maria Antonia Coria, said that she spent a total of $2,500 on the altar, food for guests and live music.

“The offering is dedicated to my father, Adalberto Coria, who died in July,” she told EFE. “On this altar we placed things he liked, such as the hat, belt and sandals he used in the field, as he loved to work.”

Vicente Gonzalez said that the $10,000 he shelled out on an altar for his wife of 42 years, who died in June, was “worthwhile” as a commemoration of their love and to ensure that she “returns to the other world happy.”

Rooted in indigenous practices that go back thousands of years, the Day of the Dead has absorbed some Christian elements and the observance coincides with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. EFE ggg/dr

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