Tales from Oaxaca – Dia de los Muertos – Ofrendas


Dios de los Muertos is a multi-day celebration, usually observed October 31 – Novemeber 2. Ofrendas are alters that honor the dead, a place where they are welcomed home and the center of the Day of the Dead celebration.  Ofrendas can be big or small, fancy or simple – and they were everywhere in Oaxaca. Homes, shops,  businesses, parks, museums – it seems everyone honors the dead with this special holiday.


These students are building a multi-tiered ofrenda in the area where they were making the tapates.


Marigolds and cockscomb are traditional flowers for ofrenda building. Marigolds represent the sun and God. Cockscomb, with it's deep red hue, represents both blood as the flow of life and death.


Ofrendas are also filled with pots of flowers to guide the souls back home, favorite foods of the departed, bowls of water, chocolate, candles, tamales, mole, salt, mescal, rice, beans, pictures, coca-cola, fruit, pan de muerto, papel picado (cut paper) and sugar skulls. Personal items are often included. Another element that you often see is a tripod shaped copal incense holder. The tripod represents fire, smoke and earth. The smoke welcomes the souls back to earth and carries people's hopes and wishes to heaven to feed the gods.



Arches are often made to frame an ofrenda as a representation of the desire for the union of heaven and earth.


A lavish welcome with vases of marigolds and cockscomb.


A more simple welcome.


A child's sweet table simply decorated.




This was the ofrenda in our studio space at the Holiday Inn. We all pitched in to make it a group offering. This wonderful photo is by Laurie Zuckerman.


This amazing ofrenda was in the Collectivo – the artist's collective. A tapete featuring Soledad paves the way for returning souls to enjoy these offerings.

Tune in next time for the final installment of Tales from Oaxaca and the beautiful cemeteries of Ocotlan.

3 Responses to Tales from Oaxaca – Dia de los Muertos – Ofrendas

  1. Chris says:

    Fran, I’m learning so much! You should call this your course in Dia de los Muertos. My new goal is to make my first humble Ofrenda this weekend.

  2. Fran Meneley says:

    Hi Chris – Thanks for stopping by and your kind comments. It’s been really fun to relive my trip to Oaxaca last year by blogging this year. All the sounds and smells and sights have come flooding back to me as I’ve posted, but more so as I’ve been making my sugar skulls and listening to my favorite latin music. Something about working with my hands, I think. I’m starting to work on my ofrenda too. The ones that are the most touching, from my view, are the ones that are indeed humble and personal. So go for it! Can’t wait to see it on November 2! Thanks again for stopping by!


  3. stephanie says:

    oh man oh man…over load, but not too much by ANY stretch of the imagination!!! Yes YES! I want a field trip!!!


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