Amid Acapulco devastation, Mexicans mark Day of the Dead

FILE PHOTO: Aftermath of Hurricane Otis

By Diego Delgado

ACAPULCO, Mexico (Reuters) - In the storm-ravaged Mexican coastal city of Acapulco, a candle flickers in the corner of stylist Nelly Valadez's home, where she has set up an altar for Day of the Dead to honor her husband and mother who died of cancer.

Hurricane Otis devastated the beach resort last week, leaving around 100 people dead or missing, destroying homes, and severing communications. Like many other residents, Valadez has been left without work and is struggling to find basic necessities.

She has had only intermittent electricity in her house since the Category 5 hurricane sparked widespread looting in the city of nearly 900,000 people.

But she was not prepared to forego the ritual of honoring departed loved ones on Day of the Dead, one of the most deeply-rooted Mexican traditions.

"It's very difficult because there's no work, there's no income, but I couldn't let these days go by, because of the people who have left us: my husband and mother," she said.

Authorities said Otis was the most powerful recorded hurricane ever to strike Mexico's Pacific coast. The storm gathered strength with unusual ferocity, wrongfooting initial forecasts.

Dozens of people are still missing and aid has been slow to trickle in. Some residents missed out on their usual Day of the Dead gathering at the city's main cemetery because they were busy searching for potable water, food, and power to charge their cellphones.

Bouquets of marigolds, a flower traditionally used on the altars to guide spirits to their homes, lined the main streets, alongside heaps of debris from destroyed houses and shops.

For many, the marigolds, which were selling for 200 pesos ($11.41), about four times the usual price, were prohibitively expensive.

Valadez was able to buy a few bouquets, which she sprinkled on the floor in front of her altar on Tuesday night to mark a path for the spirits of her husband and mother to return to visit, she said.

"For me, they haven't gone, they're still with me," she said. "Whatever it took, I was going to make an altar."

($1 = 17.5346 Mexican pesos)

(Reporting by Diego Delgado in Acapulco, writing by Laura Gottesdiener, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)