Tales from Oaxaca – Dia de los Muertos – Cemeteries


The end of the week
brought us to our journey’s purpose – Day of the Dead. It begins on October 31
and runs through November 2. It’s a multi-day celebration that honors the people
who have crossed over to the other side. It is rooted in Mesoamerican
civilizations, going back 3,000 years. Despite the
seemingly morbid subject matter, Day of the Dead is celebrated joyfully, and
though it occurs at the same time as Halloween, All Saints' Day, and All Souls
Day, the mood of Day of the Dead is much lighter, and has an emphasis on
celebrating and honoring the lives of the deceased, rather than fearing
evil or malevolent spirits. 


The days leading up to November 2 are festive as families prepare their homes and build their ofrendas to honor the dead and the markets begin to overflow with flowers, special breads and pastries, sugar skulls and Day of the Dead skeleton figures.





On the day we were in Ocotlan, we were able to spend an afternoon visiting an old and very lovely cemetery. It is an area known for growing flowers and the cemetery was overflowing with an abundance of breathtaking flowers. Families gathered quietly to weed and clean the gravesites and to be together. It was quietly festive as multiple generations of a family gathered to remember, reminisce and celebrate the lives of the living as well as the departed. Several people had guitars and songs gently wafted through the air.





I felt very honored to be able to respectfully and quietly walk among the graves to observe and take in the beauty of this truly special place.


We also visited two cemeteries at night. Families light candles and gather to wait for the souls of their loved ones to return for a visit.  



The soft candle lit cemeteries were achingly
beautiful and special. It was festive, but reverential, and each cemetery had a
little bit different feeling. The cemetery in Xoxocotlan was very old and not
at all crowded, while the big Oaxaca city cemetery was very crowded with tourists
(mostly Mexican). It was interesting to see that the streets leading up to the
cemeteries were very carnival like, with food vendors, music, games and crafts
for sale. But once in the cemetery it was quiet and respectful.
reason we had all come to Oaxaca, originally, was to experience Day of the
Dead, but we experienced so much more than any of us could have imagined. 


is saying in Oaxaca, We are not here for a
long time, we are here for a good time
.” And for the 20 artist souls that gathered in late
October, we took this to heart and had a very good time.

8 Responses to Tales from Oaxaca – Dia de los Muertos – Cemeteries

  1. Chris says:

    How much do I love your posts!

    (hint: more than chocolate)

    Thank you for that saying! I’m using it.

  2. glorv1 says:

    That is so great. I felt like I was there. Thank you for sharing.

  3. susanna says:

    Ohhhhh…what an incredible experience that must have been for you all. I would LOVE to go there one day. I think it would be one of those trips, those experiences, that would seep right down into my bones and memory.

  4. jennlui says:

    what impressive photographs! i love that i can almost smell the flowers… so many beautiful colors! thank you so very much for sharing this week your travels and experience in mexico. i hope to travel there soon, i can’t even imagine how it all must look like in person!!! breath taking i’m sure. thanks again!

  5. Yoli says:

    Such beatufiul pictures. I miss Mexico and the fiestas during this sacred time.
    Thank you for sharing.

    (I am on my Bloglandia Journey)


  6. Fantastic experience you lucky duck!! I love the bright, colourful way this holiday is celebrated.
    Thanks for sharing your story and pictures of the cemeteries.

  7. Seth says:

    This post really captured the feeling of this holiday for me. The bounty of flowers in the cemeteries is both beautiful and reverent. Must have been a very memorable experience for you.

  8. Meg says:

    Thanks for posting on your trip to Oaxaca last year–I got back from Oaxaca on Monday and really enjoyed seeing your pictures and reading about your trip. Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca is something you have to experience to understand, but you’ve done a wonderful job with words and pictures. Thank you! Next year I want to make sugar skulls or learn to make plaster figures. Where do you get the skull molds?

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