This is how Querétaro celebrates the Day of the Dead

September 05, 2023

There are many ways to live this popular Mexican tradition.

In Mexico's colorful lands and joyful traditions, there is a holiday that pays tribute to the memory of our departed and celebrates their time in this world: the Day of the Dead.  But as you know, a tradition is not born overnight, so let's take a little leap in time and learn the origins of this celebration.

Since pre-Hispanic times, Mesoamerican cultures used to bury their dead in a petate (woven palm mat), and their families organized a party where they placed offerings and altars with different elements that, according to beliefs, guided the deceased in their journey to the Mictlan, the eternal resting place for the souls.

In Mexico, with the arrival of the Spaniards, this tradition had an essential fusion with the Catholic Church. Thus, customs such as praying and placing crosses on altars began to be adopted. Later, in 2008, this tradition was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

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Picture credit: https://www.aventuravertical.com/dia-de-muertos/

Now that you know the origin of this beautiful tradition, it is worth noting that over the years, each state of the Mexican Republic began to give its essence to the Day of the Dead, creating new ways to celebrate it in festivals, parades, and other symbolic activities.

One of the states with the wealthiest cultural elements of the Day of the Dead is Querétaro, a magical state in the center of the Mexican Republic with more than one million residents. Thanks to its Magical Towns and unique landscapes, it is considered a Mexican paradise. Undoubtedly, it is full of art, tradition, color, and culture.

But that's not all! Here, I tell you some peculiarities of the Day of the Dead in Querétaro.

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Picture credit: https://foodandtravel.mx/disfruta-del-festival-del-dia-de-muertos-en-queretaro/

Day of the Dead altars and offerings in Queretaro.

At the end of October, Queretaro families prepare to honor the memory of their loved ones on November 1st and 2nd with altars and offerings that allow them to remember them.

In this region, altars are installed with three levels that represent the sky, the earth, and the underworld, or seven levels if they include the four cardinal points, representing the directions of the universe that the souls take, according to the Otomí people that lived in this territory.

Some elements included in these Day of the Dead offerings are:


  • Cempasúchil flowers.
  • Sugar and chocolate skulls.
  • "Pan de Muerto" (a bread with sugar)
  • Shredded paper.
  • Sugar cane.
  • Water. 
  • Salt.
  • Candles.
  • Fruit.
  • Food. 
  • Sweets.
  • Alcoholic beverages such as tequila or mezcal.
  • Photographs.
  • Copal and incense.
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Picture credit: https://www.kayak.com.mx/news/destinos-para-pasar-el-dia-de-muertos/

However, these decorations are common to homes because many communities in this state have particular customs.

For example, in the Magical Town of Amealco, the residents take this celebration to the cemeteries, where these families meet amidst decorations, music, and Mexican food to give homage to their ancestors and toast to the generations that preceded them.

Meanwhile, in the municipality of Tolimán, people prepare in the evenings for night prayers and processions that reach La Peña de Bernal, a symbolic place in Querétaro where the people of Tolimán take the opportunity to pray and ask for the eternal rest of their dead and the health of the living.

In addition, in one of the squares in the center of the capital of Queretaro, every year, an altar of the dead is set up in Plaza de Armas, commemorating a different character from the history of the region. The colorful decorations, music, and food you will find will immerse you in the festive spirit of Queretaro.

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Picture credit: https://plazadearmas.com.mx/altar-literario/

Legends and ancestral stories of the Day of the Dead in Queretaro.

Throughout the state of Queretaro, many legends and myths about different events have occurred in this place. For this reason, every year, there are other representations of these legends, which, it is said, take on greater significance on the Day of the Dead, when the locals remember these stories that have been told for many decades. Among the most popular are stories such as:

  • The Devil's Cave: A legend that takes place in Jalpan de Serra, Querétaro, where it is said that in the section where this cave was located, strange sounds were heard, and there were sightings of horrified faces painted on the walls of the cave, among them, a silhouette of a goat with long horns that looked like the devil. People say that the father of the church came to bless the cave and placed an image of the virgin at the bottom of the cave to dislodge the entity; however, to date, it is not known if this worked.


  • The House of "La Zacatecana": In downtown Queretaro, the woman's house in the 17th century was called "La Zacatecana". This woman hired someone to kill her husband, then murdered the executioner and buried both men in the house's stables. It is said that one night, she was found dead in her room, and since then, her home has become a museum for the people of Querétaro, who claim that her soul in pain can still be seen peeping out of one of the windows of the house.


  • The Chinocaco's well: From the heart of the Sierra Gorda of Querétaro. This legend tells how a young man took his horse to drink water in the afternoon and found a thin woman with long hair in a white dress inside the well with her back to the young man. Without turning around, she was hinting at him to accompany her for a swim, and when he agreed and saw her in front of him, he did not find a beautiful face as he expected; instead, he saw a skeleton in front of him. The young man left in a panic to mount his horse, and it is said that since then, he has not been the only one to have had this sighting.
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The Devil's Cave, Jalpan de Serra, Qro.

Picture credit: https://pueblosmagicos.mexicodesconocido.com.mx/queretaro/jalpan-de-serra/actividad/visita-la-cueva-del-diablo

Parades, festivals, and commemorative activities in Querétaro.

The Day of the Dead cannot be complete without an accurate sample of Mexican art roaming the corners of the capital and the towns of Queretaro, so these are some of the experiences you can enjoy in this incredible destination:

Night of Legends in downtown Queretaro.

There are many ways you can participate in this activity. You can choose from several packages offered by the different tours companies, or you can visit their websites and choose the one you like the most and book your visit. But no matter which one you choose, there will be plenty of scary moments!

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Picture credit: https://www.de-paseo.com/queretaro/item/noche-de-leyenda-ciudad-de-queretaro/

Catrinas and Catrines Parade.

Every year, the state of Queretaro organizes a parade in which costumed and made-up artists walk through the streets of the Historic Center. The colorful decorations of this event and the allegorical floats adorned with traditional Day of the Dead art make this experience an incredible visual spectacle.

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Picture credit: https://queretaro.travel/lugares/una-noche-llena-de-catrines-y-catrinas-asi-se-vivio-el-desfile-2022/

“Pan de Muerto” Festival in Tequisquiapan.

If you love to eat, Tequisquiapan is your place! This annual festival is hosted by producers of this traditional seasonal bread who, in addition to baking it in its original version sprinkled with sugar, also offer a variety of stuffings and flavors that will make your trip something exquisite.  And as if that weren't enough, you can enjoy accompanying your bread with traditional drinks such as pot coffee, atole, or hot chocolate.

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Picture credit: https://tiempolibreqro.com/listo-el-festival-del-pan-de-muerto-en-tequisquiapan/

National Contest of "Plañideras" in San Juan del Río.

This is one of the oldest traditions in Queretaro that has been preserved since the XVI and XVII centuries, where wealthy families hired women to attend their funerals or accompany the family to the cemetery. Their role consisted of crying, sobbing and mourning the loss as if it were their own even though they did not know the person who died.

To keep this particular tradition alive, this contest was created to reward people for crying. Yes, you read that right! This contest rewards not only crying, but creativity and performance when crying. The jury evaluates the costumes and accessories worn by the contestants, who mostly wear black evoking death, carry rosaries and make prayers that help to increase the veracity of their performance.

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Picture credit: https://www.alcaldesdemexico.com/uncategorized/en-san-juan-del-rio-lloran-planideras-en-concurso-nacional-2022/

Day of the Dead Festival and Competitions in Cadereyta de Montes.

This municipality takes place in one of the most awaited contests by the people of Queretaro, where you can see the most colorful and emblematic monumental altars of the Day of the Dead celebration.

People collaborate to make handmade altars and place thousands of colorful flowers, shredded paper, candles, and skulls all over the space. It is an incredible spot for photos with your family or friends.

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Picture credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/time-to-look/32495267252

This celebration has many ways of being lived according to the state of the Mexican Republic in which we are. Still, without a doubt, each one has something special to contribute to this unique Mexican tradition.

Let us know from which other state you would like us to share your traditions!

Fan de conocer nuevos lugares, vivir experiencias extremas y disfrutar el momento.
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