TEPOZTLAN, Mexico -- "Dia de los Muertos," the traditional Mexican commemoration of deceased loved ones, has taken on a deeper meaning in light of drug-related violence in recent years.
Drug-related killings have been on the rise since 2006, surpassing 15,000 in 2010, according to a study commissioned by the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.
"We're living in a barbarian age," said Argelia Barcas Bello, a teacher at Santiago in Tepoztlan, a town built on Tepozteco Mountain near Mexico City. The town receives many visitors who come to see a nearby ancient pyramid.
Barcas and other merchants set up shops, selling items for "ofrendas," altars set up to remember deceased loved ones for the annual Day of the Dead observance.
"We're seeing many more deaths because of the delinquency," Barcas said, adding that those who died accidentally or due to violence are remembered in her town Oct. 28.
Alejandro Alvarez, another merchant, said Mexico has many ways of representing death -- the skull, or "calavera," and "Catarinas," dressed-up female skeletons, are two such ways.
"Since the Aztecs, we've been laughing at death," Alvarez said.