Day of the Dead, a celebration and festival of relatives who have passed on, is sacred and joyous in Oaxaca as in other parts of Mexico. I am returning to Oaxaca for “Muertos” as the locals call it, arriving on October 28.
Our family friend, Janet Chavez Santiago, tells us that we don’t want to miss being with them in the village of Teotitlan del Valle on October 31. This is when the Zapotec villagers to to the local market to buy the fruits and special bread for the altar that is part of each family’s home. Her brother Eric tells me that this market day in Teotitlan del Valle is one of the largest and most abundant of the year.
Mexicans believe that the souls of all their dead relatives will arrive in the altar room of their houses at 3:00 p.m. So, the family gathers there, each tamales together, light candles and welcome the spiritual return of their loved ones. At 5:00 p.m. after the special comida, the practice is to visit the houses of their relatives to pay respects to the souls of the extended family members who have passed. Janet says that many family visitors come to their house, too, bringing gifts for the altar that include some of the favorite foods of the dead.
Everyone stays home to rest, to visit more, and to be with the spirits of the ded relatives. At 3:00 p.m. the souls return to the cemetery and there is a family procession to the graveyards to be with the souls as they re-enter the graves.