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Sunday 18 February 2018

James Bond film Spectre inspires Mexico City Day of the Dead licence to thrill

People perform during the first Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City (AP)
People perform during the first Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City (AP)
Thousands of people try to get a glimpse of a Day of the Dead parade at the main Zocalo plaza in Mexico City (AP)
A costumed couple during the Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City (AP)

The James Bond film Spectre has inspired Mexico City's first Day of the Dead parade, complete with floats, giant skeleton marionettes and more than 1,000 actors, dancers and acrobats in costumes.

Tens of thousands turned out to watch the procession, which included routines like a phalanx of Aztec warriors with large headdresses doing tricks on rollerblade skates.

Mexico's Day of the Dead celebrations traditionally consisted of quiet family gatherings at the graves of their departed loved ones bringing them music, drink and conversation.

Now the celebrations are changing, with Halloween and zombie walks casting an influence, along with Hollywood films.

"It would be hard to conserve these traditions without any changes," said Juan Robles, a 32-year-old carpenter who led the skating Aztecs.

"This way, people can come and participate, the young and old."

The idea for the parade came from scriptwriter on Spectre.

In the film, whose opening scenes were shot in Mexico City, Bond chases a villain through crowds of revellers in what resembled a parade of people in skeleton outfits and floats.

And after Hollywood dreamed up a Mexican spectacle to open the film, once millions had seen the movie, the country had to devise a celebration to match it.

"When this movie hit the big screen and was seen by millions and millions of people in 67 countries, that started to create expectations that we would have something," said Lourdes Berho, chief executive of the government's Mexico Tourism Board.

"We knew that this was going to generate a desire on the part of people here, among Mexicans and among tourists, to come and participate in a celebration, a big parade."

Mexico City authorities even promised that some of the props used in the movie would appear in the parade. The government board sponsoring the march called it part of "a new, multi-faceted campaign to bring tourists to Mexico during the annual Day of the Dead holiday".

Add to this the increasing popularity of "Zombie Walks" around the Day of the Dead, and the quantities of Halloween witches, ghouls, ghosts and cobweb decorations sold in Mexico City street markets, and some see a fundamental change in the traditional Mexican holiday.

Johanna Angel, an arts and communication professor at Mexico's IberoAmerican University, said the influences flow both north and south.

She noted US Halloween celebrations now include more Mexican-inspired "candy skull" costumes and people dressed up as "Catrinas," modelled on a satirical 19th century Mexican engraving of a skeleton in a fancy dress and a big hat.

"I think there has been a change, influenced by Hollywood," Angel said. "The foreign imports are what most influence the ways we celebrate the Day of the Dead here."

Traditionally, on the November 1-2 holiday, Mexicans set up altars with photographs of the dead and plates of their favourite foods in their homes. They gather at their loved ones' gravesides to drink, sing and talk to the dead.

In some towns, families leave a trail of orange marigold petals in a path to their doorway so the spirits of the dead can find their way home.

Some light bonfires for the same purpose, sitting around the fire and warming themselves with cups of boiled-fruit punch to ward off the autumn chill.

These days, many cities set up huge, flower-strewn altars to the dead and hold public events like parades, mass bicycle events and fashion shows in which people dress up in "Catrina" disguises.


Press Association

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