Thursday, November 1, 2012

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca (Photos)

In Oaxaca, the Day of the Dead is a three day holiday, beginning on the 31st, which is the last day people have to get their altars set up, and continuing through the next two nights. It is pretty much a non-stop party. Everywhere you go, streets will be closed down for parades (comparsas) with marching bands and dancing children. Every single business, no matter how humble, has an altar set up with candles and fruit. There are endless exhibitions and public events. 

Today I went to Zaachila with a small group of families who were showing an international guest around town. I went as interpreter - pretty sweet gig. I get my entrance paid to events and archeological zones and I get invited to lunch and all I have to do is interpret everything as best I can. Along main street in Zaachila - a lovely little pueblo which will be the subject of a future "day tripping" column - people were setting up an exhibition of tapetes. Tapetes means "rugs" and my last column was about buying real rugs in Teotitlan, but these are sand rugs. We arrived early, which was a plus, as we were able to see how the tapetes were made. 

Hope and Paloma were invited to several comparsas - parades held by schools or community groups. Children are expected to go in costume, and almost everyone goes as a skeleton or a Caterina. Here is Bibi as the world's most adorable little dead person. 

My household altar, before the dog stole the bread off of it. This is really a very simple altar - many people put up amazingly complex and beautiful constructions. 

A few weeks ago, we visited the ruins of Huitzol, and to get there we had to drive right through this small, rural cemetery. I thought it was incredibly beautiful, and also very strange to an American. 

In contrast, here is the cemetery in Zaachila, decorated for the Day of the Dead. Tonight, this place will be filled to the brim with families, bringing food, drink, and music. The party will go on till dawn. 

The markets are full of flower sellers at this time of year. Marigolds are called cemptlasuchil in Zapotec, and their strong, astringent scent is everywhere. I loved this photo of a flower seller in the market at Zaachila. 


  1. Just curious, but since you are living down south, were you able to vote before you left?

  2. no, not before I left. I asked for an absentee ballot and it arrived in plenty of time. I voted as early as possible, and through the county's website was able to verify that my ballot was received. Technology!