When Julián Kalev from La Paz, Mexico was turning 3 years old his family knew exactly what to get him: a Dr. Simi-themed birthday party. You only get a single third birthday in life and little Julián was living his best life dressed as a Dr. Simito, the mascot of the popular Mexican pharmacy chain Farmacias Similares.
The tiny toddler wore a white inflatable suit with a black tie and a blue cape. Then he got down with his bad self to some dance music — this is exactly how I imagine most 3-year-olds get turned up.
Julián has a ton of stans now.
When Julián’s father, Julio César Mendoza Carachure, shared the video on Facebook the clip went viral. The video received over 7.5 million views (your faves could never) and over 45,000 shares. Let’s be real, this video is cute as hell. There is nothing more adorable than the cherubic cheeks of a tiny tot, but the inflatable suit is what sent me over the edge. The cuteness levels have my fingers sweating all over the mouse — I can’t hit share quick enough. The people need to see Dr. Simito.
Carachure gave his son a few options for the theme including Mickey Mouse, Spider-man, and the Minions, but Julián was like, no, I have to do this for the culture (I mean, that’s what I imagine this three-year-old said).
This is about legacy, baby!
If you find yourself outside of a Farmacias Similares in Mexico, you might notice a Dr. Simi mascot dancing to reggaetón. It is not uncommon for children (and adults, let’s be real) to stop and dance with the cultural icon. If you search “Dr. Simi” on YouTube you’ll find tons of videos of people hanging with the mascot. He is a man of the people and with a slogan like, “The same only cheaper,” it’s no freaking wonder. Yes, I want a discounted Bugatti. Oh, you only sell medicine here? Well, you should have started with that.
Dr. Simi is a larger-than-life pharmacist with a massive grey mustache and caterpillar eyebrows. The first Farmacias Similares was founded in 1997 by Don Víctor González Torres to provide low-cost medications to Mexican consumers. There are now over 6,000 locations across Mexico and Chile.
Yes, Dr. Simi did the Harlem Shake.
Picture it: Dr. Simi dressed as an orchestra conductor. Dr. Simi in a diaper. Dr. Simi as a pirate. Dr. Simi as a firefighter. Then you hear it, “Con los terroristas!” No, you’re not in hell, it’s 2013 and the “Harlem Shake” is the best thing that ever happened to you and your family. Obama is President and there’s a hot new singer who sounds eerily like Mariah Carey named Ariana Grande. Is she Latinx, you wonder, she sure looks like it… Only time will tell.
We must protect Julián at all costs.
There aren’t a lot of kids in this social media-obsessed world that would cop to stanning a pharmacy mascot. All kids want these days is Kylie Jenner lip kits, homemade slime, and a Green New Deal, according to the internet memes I see on Tumblr. Shout out to Julián for living his truth. Although I proudly went through a hardcore Tweety Bird and Looney Tunes phase in elementary school, I was never rewarded with a dope, viral theme party.
Secondly, shout out to his mother, Viridiana Sicairos, who made him this costume for his birthday. The only thing my mom ever made me was a purse out of an old pair of jeans that was exactly as uncool as you imagine. This family was stoked to make little Julián happy for his big 3 and I can’t think of anything sweeter than that. May every one of Julián’s birthdays be as insanely specific and fun as this one. We could all use some joy this pure.
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Here’s one thing we know: Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Though related, the two annual events differ greatly in traditions and tone. Whereas Halloween is a dark night of terror and mischief, Day of the Dead festivities unfold over two days in an explosion of color and life-affirming joy. Sure, the theme is death, but the point is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, revelers don makeup and costumes, hold parades and parties, sing and dance, and make offerings to lost loved ones.
The rituals are rife with symbolic meaning. The more you understand about this feast for the senses, the more you will appreciate it. And with celebrations taking place across not just Mexico, but also major cities throughout the US, here’s everything you should know about the major holiday.
But first, what exactly is Día de Muertos?
Day of the Dead originated several thousand years ago with the Aztec, Toltec, and other Nahua people, who considered mourning the dead disrespectful. For these pre-Hispanic cultures, death was a natural phase in life’s long continuum. The dead were still members of the community, kept alive in memory and spirit—and during Día de los Muertos, they temporarily returned to Earth.
Today’s Día de los Muertos celebration is a mash-up of pre-Hispanic religious rites and Christian feasts. It takes place on November 1 and 2—All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on the Catholic calendar—around the time of the fall maize harvest.
It’s such an important part of the Mexican identity, that UNESCO has recognized it.
Thanks to efforts by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, the term “cultural heritage” is not limited to monuments and collections of objects. It also includes living expressions of culture—traditions—passed down from generation to generation. In 2008, UNESCO recognized the importance of Día de los Muertos by adding the holiday to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today Mexicans from all religious and ethnic backgrounds celebrate Día de los Muertos, but at its core, the holiday is a reaffirmation of indigenous life.
One of the most popular places to celebrate Dia de Muertos is in the Mexican city of Oaxaca.
In Oaxaca, you’ll find spectacular markets selling festive items from which locals construct their Day of the Dead altars—look for sugar skulls and specialty food items like black mole. Oaxaca schools have contests for homemade altars, and the city goes all out with elaborate creations like sand tapestries. You’ll also find spontaneous carnival-like processions in surrounding villages and neighborhoods, like Etla.
Ever since the movie Coco, the villages of Michoacán have been ground zero for tourists wanting to experience Dia de Muertos.
One of the most moving Day of the Dead celebrations takes place each year in Pátzcuaro, a municipality in the state of Michoacán about 225 miles west of Mexico City. Indigenous people from the countryside converge on the shores of Pátzcuaro Lake, where they pile into canoes, a single candle burning in each bow, and paddle over to a tiny island called Janitzio for an all-night vigil in an indigenous cemetery.
The crew of Disney’s Coco also said that the lakeside village served as inspiration for the film, and after visiting I can totally see why.
If you’re in Mexico City, you need to visit the network of canals in the south of the city called Xochimilco.
Take a nighttime ride through the canals of Xochimilco capping with a show narrating the legend of la llorona (The Weeping Woman). This year the spectacle will take place between October 5 and November 18 and will be celebrating its twenty-five years on stage. Also, this event is the only of its kind that has won multiple awards for its efforts in preserving a piece of Mexican history, recognized in 2008 by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Also near Mexico City, is the pueblito of Mixquic which has an incredible and authentic celebration that many say is among the country’s best.
Mixquic, located in the Tlahuac Delegation of Mexico City (southeast of the Mexico City center) has been swallowed up by the megalopolis’s urban sprawl, but retains the ambiance of a rural village with strong indigenous roots. Street stalls are set up in the days before the celebrations. A procession through town with a cardboard coffin leads the way to the cemetery where a candle-light vigil will take place.
Or you can hang out in the city and watch the massive parade.
This year marks the third edition of the Día de Muertos parade — a celebration full of iconic folklore associated with Mexico’s Day of the Dead.
As every year, you can awe over decorated floats, José Guadalupe Posada’s classic catrinas turned into giant marionettes, and Day of the Dead-themed balloons. Contrary to popular knowledge, this parade was not a norm in Mexico City until the release of the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre; in the film, Bond casually weaves through the parade before changing into a suit and pursuing his targets. The scene made an international impact, and Mexico City saw an opportunity to boost tourism while finding a new, fun way to celebrate their beloved holiday.
Meanwhile, in the US, Los Angeles is home to one of the largest celebrations in the world.
You’ll find a traditional Day of the Dead celebration in Los Angeles, on vibrant Olvera Street, home of one of the city’s largest Mexican marketplaces. This area upholds many festive Mexican traditions, commemorating the holiday with face painting, theatrical performances, altar displays, nightly candlelit processions, and more.
While just a few miles away, there is a two-day celebration that takes place at the Hollywood Forever Cemtetary that attracts more than a quarter million people. At L.A.’s most photogenic Day of the Dead celebration, the cemetery grounds are covered with art exhibitions, dance rituals, musical performances, children’s arts and crafts projects and food vendors (and crowds) aplenty. You’ll see altars to the dead created by community artists, and can either watch or participate in the calaca (skeleton) costume contest. This year’s theme honors sacred migrations and the monarch butterfly.
Chicago is another US city that knows how to celebrate the beauty of Dia de Muertos.
Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art celebrates the Day of the Dead with a special presentation, called Día de los Muertos Xicágo. Families are invited to upload a photo of a loved one they want to remember, which is then projected onto the museum’s exterior during the one-day celebration. Other highlights include a community altar display, traditional foods, face painting, and live performances.
And in Arizona, the city of Tucson has one of the country’s most powerful displays of celebration.
Tucson‘s All Souls Procession and All Souls Weekend are held just after the Day of the Dead. With more than 150,000 participants walking in the two-mile-long procession, it’s one of the most powerful Día de los Muertos celebrations in North America. Events include a communal urn burning, cultural performances, and art installations.
El Chapo may have just been sentenced to multiple life sentences for crimes committed by his drug empire. His alleged billion dollar fortune is being fought over by both the US and Mexican governments. But the former drug lord’s family is hoping to use a large portion of El Chapo’s fortune to fund a university in his home state of Sinaloa.
The drug lord’s family announced that they would launch a university in the drug lord’s home state of Sinaloa.
José Luis González Meza, a lawyer for Joaquin Guzman, revealed in September that “El Chapo” wants his money to go Mexico’s indigenous communities. In an interview, he also said that Guzmán’s family will receive financial support from a range of foundations in order to open the university in the ex-narco’s birthplace.
It will be designed by Guerrero painter Hugo Zúñiga and have several different faculties, he said.
It looks like Mexico’s President is also supportive of the initiative.
González said that he was hopeful that President López Obrador would make the time to travel to Badiraguato and preside over a groundbreaking ceremony during his tour of Sinaloa this weekend.
“What we’re hoping for is that . . . he’ll go to Badiraguato and along with Chapo’s mom, María Consuelo, he’ll lay the first stone and the work to build the university will finally start,” he said.
The president said in February that his government was committed to the establishment of a new public university in the town that will specialize in forestry, while this week he pledged to extend the agroforestry employment program Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) to parts of the country where illicit crops are grown, including Badiraguato.
But the university is just one of several projects the family wants to develop to benefit the country’s marginalized communities.
Another project will involve the family overseeing the revival of a chain of affordable food markets that will sell meals at 50 percent below cost.
The stores will sell cheap food, coffee, tequila, beer and mezcal. Similar stores had existed during the days Joaquín Hernández Galicia ruled over the powerful oil workers union.
El Chapo’s family want the Mexican government to finance the project through two trusts allegedly left behind by Hernández Galicia. He died in 2013 after spending nine years in prison after troops stormed his home and arrested him on manslaughter and weapons charges in 1989 in what the government described as a crackdown on corruption.
The last plan will develop a pharmaceutical industry which will provide affordable medicine to Mexico before expanding its service throughout Central America.
González Meza claims the family is wanting to ‘provide low-cost food and medicine for Mexicans’ and is not concerned with making money for themselves. Both the association and pharmaceutical company will be headed by farmers and indigenous people.
All of this depends though on when, if, and how much of El Chapo’s fortune is seized by the US and Mexican governments.
El Chapo wants his entire fortune, which is estimated in the billions of dollars, to go to Indigenous communities across Mexico. However, his wishes aren’t likely to be granted according to government officials.
Prosecutors will not disclose how and where they will seek this fortune, but the former head of anti-money laundering for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Duncan Levin, gave the Observer an insight into how they might proceed.
“Forfeiture is part of a sentence,” says Levin. “If there are assets in the US, they can go right after those assets.” He adds that a US law from 1957 provides for any asset partly funded by criminal money to be seized in its entirety. “The way they did business was very pervasive,” he says. So that any business in which the Sinaloa cartel is found to have invested is fair game.
But, according to Levin, “the vast bulk of assets are likely in Mexico” and the search for them “would be greatly helped by working with the Mexican government”, despite current political tensions.
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