Xilitla, Mexico: where Day of the Dead meets carnival

Forget what you’ve seen in James Bond films, the best town for this November festival is Xilitla, amid the hills and waterfalls of the eastern Sierra Gorda

‘Where exactly are you taking us?” my friend asked. Stars sparkled over black mountains as we drove along steep, dark roads into the lush Sierra Gorda of eastern Mexico. High in these hills lie the ancestral lands of the Huastec people, with villages, coffee farms, rugged slopes and powerful waterfalls. Centuries-old traditions flourish here, and we had come to experience one in particular.

In the colonial town of Xilitla, in San Luís Potosí state, where clouds swaddle mountain tops and citrus trees abound, each October the locals prepare the town’s whitewashed square for Xantolo (pronounced shantolow), the local version of Day of the Dead.

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