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The Wonderful Day of the Dead Festivities in San Miguel de Allende

By Geoff Livingston

Photographer Cade Martin and myself flew to San Miguel de Allende to capture the spirit of the Day of the Dead festival, which includes La Calaca Festival ( What we found was a majestic celebration fitting to honor millions of ancestors through the ages.

The face make-up that most people associate with the Day of the Dead is a center point, causing excitement among the throngs of people attending the festival.  All around are beautifully decorated altars, glowing candles, families young and old, people taking photos of each other and tourists gathering to capture images of the costumed locals of San Miguel de Allende.

We set up a mobile studio in the middle of the Jardin square by the iconic Parroquia to have a central location with lots of activity  “I really wanted to set up a photo booth and create portraits of faces with the hopes of photographing inspiring people walking around,” said Cade. “The faces and outfits are extraordinary and it would be neat to try and capture some of the spirit of the San Miguel De Allende festival.”

You could see people dressed up as “muertes” or dead brides and grooms, children, Native American warriors, and banditos. It was quite the parade.

These people dressed up to revel in their ancestors’ past glory. Altars were set up throughout the city honoring those who passed away, and how they lived their lives.  These shrines were decorated with marigolds, portraits, favorite drinks and foods, and other items to be remembered.

In the middle of the city square, people thronged to watch the center stage where they were treated to performances and plays. The most beautiful moment occurred with the playing of the Sonic Butterfly is a long 26-string harp strung to the Parroquia.   Papel picado or fiesta flags to celebrate the Day of the Dead were strung across the square and adorned most of the altars.

At the heart of the festival with all of its wonderful costumes, revelry, art and tales was a celebration of life, and the embracing of our very real mortality. Young and old came together and perhaps grew a bit more courageous about how they live their lives, and the memories they are creating.

The portraits here were created by Cade Martin. Street images were created by me, Geoff Livingston. Martin will release the full sets of the portrait series over the next few weeks.

Quote by Cade Martin

“I’m a photographer and have been visiting San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato since I was a little boy. I actually got married there and was thrilled about photographing  the Day of the Dead. For this personal project, I really liked the idea of setting up a photo booth and creating portraits of existing faces that I found inspiring. I experienced the festival through the amazing faces and outfits.  They were extraordinary and I thought they captured a little bit of the spirit of the La Calaca festival. I’ve always been driven by a sense of adventure and to have this experience in a place close to my heart has been very special. I find I am taken to new environments through the camera, and the Day of the Dead festival offered a special moment for me. Here is the work I hope you like it.”


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