DAY OF THE DEAD: Dan and Jasmine Rowse celebrated by having their faces painted. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Day of the Dead festival brings a touch of Mexico to Nelson


Mexican culture was alive and kicking at Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead festival.

Founders Park transformed last Sunday into a fiesta of traditional culinary treats and tricks for those who came through the gates to celebrate.

Organiser Jesus Ruiz Lopez says the day was about celebrating family and taking a moment to remember those who have passed. It’s also a festival that is close to his heart.

“It reminds me of home, very much. It’s nice to see families here enjoying the day.”

Jesus says, after moving to Nelson 10 years ago he wanted a way to give back to the community, and the festival is his way of doing that.

Now in its seventh year, all the food is still made by hand using Jesus’ grandmother’s recipes. “Next year we are going to change it up a bit and let some others bring through their recipes.”

He says, in a time when nearly everyone has Mexican food in their home, whether it be nachos or enchiladas, it’s important to remind people that these foods are traditionally made by hand.

The festival, which traditionally runs for three days from November 1-3, is growing in popularity with around 2000 people coming through the gates of Founders.

Traditional Mexican food, beverages, and produce were on offer as well as sugar-skull face painting which had a solid queue throughout the day.

Seven-year-old Poppy Sheehan used 22kgs of sugar to make 38 sugar-skulls to sell at the festival with her dad Mark.

“She found a recipe in a cook book that I got given for my birthday and tried it out, then she had the idea to make heaps of them to sell here,” says Mark.

“They are a really traditional part of the Day of the Dead celebration, but they are really labour intensive.”

The sugar skull traditionally represents a departed soul and is placed on the ‘ofrenda’ or gravestone to honour the return of their spirit.