Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico
||Altar, Instituto Cultural Oaxaca
Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is an annual celebration that manifests
a rich blend of Catholic and indigenous traditions.
Spirits of the beloved dead return to their homes and visit for a short time
with their families and friends. The first day of November the souls of
departed children arrive, and on the second day of November they are joined
by spirits of adults. Like all visitors, they are welcomed with food, drink,
stories, memories, and good will. Their presence is thought of as a blessing
rather than a curse, and brings joy to their loved ones.
In preparation for this celebration, the last days of October are spent
preparing special loaves of sweet bread (pan de muerto), and desserts;
making mole, harvesting special
flowers, including marigolds (cempasúchil); creating altars in the home and
decorating grave sites. Decorations in the form of macabre but whimsical
skeletons and candy skulls abound. Death is not to be feared but embraced.
||Oaxaca City — Day of the Dead altar made by Boris Spider
Oaxaca lays claim to having one of Mexico's richest Day of the Dead
traditions and the number of visitors spikes after an autumn lull.
There are some fine overviews of the holiday including Transition Abroad's essay Honoring Tradition and Planeta.com's Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico. That said,
how does one participate? Here we present some of the activities open to the
All of Oaxaca's markets are fully operating in the days prior to the Muertos holiday. They provide the decorations for the altar including the
candy skulls, skeletons, and ceramic figures. One of our favorite markets is
the Pochote in
Colonia Xochimilco. On Friday November 1 and Saturday November 2 the market
will feature select crafts and foods. It is also a prime venue to learn
about places to visit over the next few days.
Oaxaca is covered by a veritable plethora of altars during this holiday. On
Thursday, Nov 1, I will be attending the inauguration of altar at Alcala #902-Bis
prepared by Boris Spider. For those not able to visit in person, check out
the live-streaming video online from highlights of the Day of the Dead.
For more tips keep an eye on the Oaxaca Calendar and the Oaxaca Wiki.