Category Archives: Oaxaca

Oaxaca Day of Dead 2

Throughout Oaxaca during Day of the Dead festivities, flowers are abundant, especially marigolds and cocks combs.  Flowers are used extensively on altars but are also used to create images on the ground and to create pathways to the altars.

In a large plaza several huge flower pictures were displayed.

During our first evening we witnessed a city full of fun pageantries, serious reenactments, dance contests, Catrina beauty competitions, food vendors and throngs of people having a grand time!  It was like New Years Eve in NYC!

And more Catrinas.

In the markets we discovered special D of D items such as brightly decorated sugar skulls, many of which are placed on the altars.

Papel picado (pierced paper) folk art flags with skulls and Catrinas.

And special breads.

We visited a gallery with a D of D art exhibit.

And then, for two nights in a row, we visited very large cemeteries, one in the city and one on the outskirts.  There we encountered people visiting family graves that were decorated with flowers, lit with candles and lanterns, and where offerings were placed.  Families sat around the graves most of the night picnicking and listening to recorded music or music performed by roving mariachi bands.  Occasionally we saw “live” skeletons.  (my camera was not good with night-time photos without using a flash.)

Outside one of the cemeteries, there were vendors with flowers, lanterns  and candles, etc. along with food vendors that contributed to a lively atmosphere.

There was nothing morbid about our whole experience.  Instead, it was an on-going fiesta morning, noon and night!

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Oaxaca Day of the Dead 1

I am reposting images of a trip that I took several years ago to experience the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico.  I am reposting because the original posting was on a blog site that has since been taken down.

I traveled with Charlotte, my travel buddy and high school friend, and we stayed in an apartment in the heart of the city. We arrived several days before November 2 so as to discover pre-celebrations.  Three days ahead of the Big Day, parades started taking place with people in costumes and face makeup and lots of musicians, all in a festive atmosphere.  Even people not in the parade wandered the streets in makeup while gringos looked on and snapped photos.

The theme of death might seem gruesome, but the Mexicans embrace its mysteries though elaborate ancestral traditions that include parades and costumes, food, decorations, altars, images, prayers, mourning, and offerings. The celebrations are full of remembrances, nostalgia, and respect for those family members who have passed on.  The souls of the deceased return on October 31 to reunite with the living which is both a sad and happy occasion.  These traditions have roots in Pre-Colonial Central Mexico.

An image that has come to signify the Day of the Dead is La Calavera Catrina, meaning “Dapper
Skeleton.” It originated from an etching by Jose Guadalupe Posada, an early 20th satirical artist.  The image depicts a skeleton in an elaborate hat as a way for the artist to mock the indigenous people who took on the life style of European aristocrats.  The popularity of the image also connotes the Mexican outlook of making fun of death.  (Painting faces white and black emphasizes the features of a skull but also references the French use of white makeup to lighten the appearance of their skin and Posada’s distain at its use by Mexicans to deny their ethnic identity.)

One of the art schools had a contest for students to create Catrina bridal outfits from recycled material and paper.  Here is the winner.

Many of those in the parade did the zombie walk.

There were also skits demonstrating that no one escapes death.

Also, coffins were plentiful as were references to Satan.

Throughout the city were altars decorated with photos of the deceased, their favorite foods and items such as cigarettes or playing cards.

More in the next post.