NOGALES, Sonora — The city’s cemetery is dotted with blues, reds, pinks and yellows — lots of yellows.
On Nov. 1 and 2, thousands of families descend from throughout the city and across the border to visit their departed loved ones.
People start trickling in early in the morning and stay through the late night. They clean the gravesites and adorn them with fresh flowers, sold for a couple of dollars a bunch by vendors who set up shop along the streets.
When they’re finished, they light a candle before heading back home.
Beatriz Uriol, 59, bought more than 40 pounds of bright marigolds, pink cockscomb bunches and daisies to decorate the graves of her brother, who died 47 years ago, and a grandson who died 14 years ago when he was just four days old.
By midday the ever-growing cemetery, with graves being dug further up the hill, is full of families. The smell of fresh flowers, street tacos and roasted corn fill the air. Echoing over the gravestones are the sounds of children playing, of songs dedicated to the departed, of rakes against the rocky soil as people remove debris.
The festivity is a multi-generational family gathering, where children who are off from school accompany their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. Some seem to fully understand what they are doing there, but for most it’s a fun day where they get to play in the cemetery with their toy trucks, run around and eat candy.
Vendors yell out, their rhythmic cries selling peanuts, candied apples, cotton candy and flowers for five pesos, less than 50 cents.
“Day of the Dead is to celebrate those who we’ve lost,” said Uriol, “and we come here as a way to say thank you. Thank you for being our brother, for being our son.”