Chignahuapan is one of the nine Magic Towns of Puebla and is full of mysticism, which is why the Light and Life Festival is held every year during the Day of the Dead celebrations.
It takes place between November 1st and 2nd with approximately three thousand five hundred attendees each year in the free activities and one thousand seven hundred in the chargeable ones, according to figures of Jorge Gámez García, Director of Tourism of Chignahuapan.
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What Mexican mythology says
In Chignahuapan, the celebrations are held as part of an important tradition that was born from Mexican mythology, since it is an area where the axolotl lives, which plays the main role in local beliefs.
It is believed that the axolotl is one of the multiple forms of transformation of the god Xolotl, who was Quetzalcoatl's twin brother. It is also said that he was once chased to be sacrificed, so he became a fish and when he wanted to become land he was sacrificed and remained in limbo.
"There is a pre-Hispanic myth that says that, to reach the world of the living, we had to spend 9 months in the mother's womb. Then there was the belief that when we died the soul was detached from the body and wandered 4 years in the underworld, which are 9 paramos or underworlds... Chignahuapan is the ninth, because it comes from Nahuatl (which means 'nine', 'water', 'over', or 'over the nine waters')," explains Gámez García.
In the Chignahuapan Lagoon, also known as Almoloya Lagoon, according to tradition, the Xoloitzcuintle dog (another form of transformation of the god Xólotl) helped the souls to pass through in order to have eternal rest in the Mictlán, which in modern times would be like 'paradise'.
Therefore, the Magic Town is considered the hall before Mictlán, but also the access from that side to it, that is why the celebration to receive the dead is done in this way.
What does the Light and Life Festival involve?
A grand offering of more than a thousand candles, bread, cempasúchil flowers, incense and other elements, as well as sawdust mats with pre-Hispanic fretwork, is made to welcome the souls that visit the world of the living.
It begins with a walk with torches or candles, which starts from the Calzada de las Almas until reaching the shore of the Laguna de Chignahuapan.
Likewise, a group of people perform on a pyramid in the middle of the lagoon, and others in boats, the representation of the ritual of the dead to achieve purification, precisely as if they were going through the 9 planes to reach the Mictlán.
Finally, the representation is made to celebrate life and light, which is taken as a celebration for the birth, also with pyrotechnics, lights, pre-Hispanic music, and dance.
In regard to the COVID-19 health emergency, the event was held, but one day earlier than usual, since it took place on October 31 and November 1, 2020, although following the health protocols and with a capacity reduced to 30%.
It was held in two schedules both days, in order to reduce the agglomeration of people, according to the Tourism Direction of Chignahuapan.