In addition to fishing, they complement their economy with the production of handicrafts for sale to the many visitors that come to Janitzio, and in many small inns they offer the delicious pescado blanco, white fish, unique to Lake Patzcuaro.
Many of the locals work and study outside the island. Since there is only an elementary school on the islet, when the kids go on to high school they have to attend schools in Patzcuaro. You can imagine how striking it is to see the young students on their rowboats, crossing the lake early in the morning to get to school.
By October 31st, all the houses and shops, as well as the docks are decorated with cempasuchil flowers and fruits from this region. The whole community participates enthusiastically in the preparations of this festivity!
Ofrendas are set up in the houses for their dead relatives. Generally, ofrendas are set up on a table covered with a tablecloth and papel picado. They are decorated with sugar skulls, candles, cempasuchil flowers, and paper mache skeletons. Plates with the favorite foods of their dead relatives are also set on the ofrenda. Some have also liquor and cigarettes. On the ofrendas for the deceased children they place toys in addition to the food.
Characteristic of this region are the wooden arches that the families create and adorn with cempasuchil and fruits for the tombs in the cemetery. A very interesting tradition is that for the first three years that follow the passing away of a person, every November first, it is the godparents of the deceased who decorate the arch. When they finish, they go to the parents’ house and lovingly offer it to them. During the morning
of November 1st, the ceremony in honor of the Angelitos takes place in the cemetery.
The little angels or angelitos are the children that died and that could never experience the happiness and sorrows of adulthood.
Very early the bells of the church start ringing, calling children’s souls and the living relatives that will attend the ceremony.
At 6:00 A.M., in the small chapel of Janitzio, mass has already begun. Remember, this is fundamentally a Catholic ritual. After mass, the women and children go to the graveyard to clean and decorate the tombs. They bring with them flowers, bread, and fruits in baskets covered with napkins that they embroidered themselves, as well as the copal, incense, that they will burn so that the aroma will help guide the returning souls.
Each family brings with them in honor of their deceased relatives.
A beautiful view enriches this mystical moment… in the distance, from the graveyard, the fishermen can be seen with their canoes starting their working day. The lake is so peaceful as if welcoming the spirits that are returning home.
Slowly, and quietly, the cemetery begins to fill up. The music of a band can be heard slowly approaching the graveyard. It is a family that is carrying an arch accompanied by the band. Their son died a few months before, and this morning is the first Day of the Dead that they will be honoring him. This is why they have brought a band with them.
Music resonates fills the burial ground.
Around nine in the morning the ritual in honor of the deceased children ends. In a couple of hours, at nightfall, the most impressive celebration will begin, the ritual in which the souls of the deceased adults are honored.
It is surprising how in such a little island, thousands and thousands of visitors will arrive in order to witness this beautiful rite.
In the preceding hours, the carpenters laboriously work to set a stage for the folkloric dances that will be performed as part of the celebrations.