Thursday, 3 November 2016

Spectre inspires the first Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City

In a blog about James Bond's impact on culture, I could hardly fail to mention the Day of the Dead parade, which was held in Mexico City on 29th October as part of its annual Day of the Dead festival. As I describe in a previous post, the festival traditionally involves offerings of food and drink to household ancestors, streets decorated with flowers, market-stalls selling edible skulls, and graveside feasts. This was the first year that a parade was held in the city. And the reason why it was held was due to Spectre (2015).


While I have my misgivings about the film – Blofeld revealed as Bond's step-brother? The series could have done without that complication – it is undeniably spectacular, and the Day of the Dead parade that opens the film is up there with the best of the series' pre-title sequences.

Lourdes Berho, the chief executive of the Mexico Tourist Board must have thought so too. 'We knew that this was going to generate a desire on the part of people here, in Mexicans and among tourists,' she told reporters, 'to come and participate in a celebration, a big parade.'

The thousands of people who came to view the parade saw performers in skeleton costumes and masks, floats bedecked with skeletons, and giant skeleton marionettes. Some of the participants wore costumes from the film itself. Others had costumes inspired by the film or wore more traditional costumes, such as those representing Aztec warriors.

This isn't the first time James Bond has had an impact on aspects of life beyond the normal scope of popular culture. The revolving restaurant on the summit of the Schilthorn in the Swiss Alps has been known as Piz Gloria ever since it appeared in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969). Maps of the region around Phuket in Thailand (well, Google maps, at least) officially record a small islet off Khao Phing Kan as James Bond Island, which formed part of Scaramanga's lair in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974).

Whether Spectre's impact on the Day of the Dead festival will be as lasting as Bond's impact on the the Schilthorn and Phuket has been remains to be seen. As David Agren reports in the Guardian, some commentators, among them the editor of Nexos magazine, Esteban Illades, took to social media to denounce the parade as populist stunt. Interestingly, though, the Guardian also reports that parades and processions have in fact been part of the festival for a some years now, even if in a relatively minor way.

What Spectre has done is given that emerging tradition a boost, and changed expectations about what the Day of the Dead festival entails. I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see the parade return next year, and indeed hear of similar parades being held elsewhere. (Look out for a parade near you!). More generally, the parade demonstrates how James Bond continues to have significance and relevance in the wider cultural environment. It may be a while yet before we hear of a Jason Bourne Island...

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