Getting Ready for Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Parade of the Catrinas

I can’t help myself. Those flamboyant, extravagantly costumed Catrinas, made famous as a Dia de los Muertos symbol by political cartoonist Jose Guadalupe Posada, are starting to pop up all over town. Day of the Dead is a big deal in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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As I walk the cobbled streets and uneven sidewalks, I remember to look up (as well as down to make sure my footing is solid). There are Calaveras on rooftops and leaning over balconies here in Oaxaca, too.

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Of course, I have to photograph them and the golden marigold flowers that are coming into full bloom. Their fragrance guides the dead from the other world back to this one for the annual visit to loved ones still living.

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Whimsy, fun, mockery, parades, joyfulness and celebration are all part of Day of the Dead. Local people take the return of their loved ones seriously. They are deadly serious. One mother I know from El Norte who lost her adult son this year to a rare illness, is waiting with family in her local village for Muertos when she will be with her son again.

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This is a pre-Hispanic tradition based in belief and mysticism, attached to the harvest season when all that lived returns to the earth.

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We have two weeks to go but the energy is building. Shop windows lure the eye with decorations that are uniquely Oaxaca plus a blend of Halloween, an adaptation of commerce brought to Mexico by the U.S.A.

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So, we see a blend, a syncretism of sorts, of plastic pumpkins, witches on broomsticks, ghosts, candy corn, spiders and gauze integrated with skeletons riding bicycles, skeletons wearing rebozos and skeletons dressed in indigenous clothing.

                                   My vote for the best decorations is the patio                                                                        entrance to Los Danzantes Restaurant.


Today, I went to the printer to make a copy of a special photograph of my dad who died in 1997.  I’m thinking about the altar I will build where I will display his photo in memorial, light copal incense and guide his spirit back to me.

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He wasn’t a drinker, but he liked a beer on a rare occasion. It really didn’t matter what kind. So, maybe a Victoria will go on the altar along with fresh fruit and a 24-hour candle whose flame will remind me of life, death, memory and the commitment to honor a beloved parent.

How to build a Day of the Dead Altar and Another Version 

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As I passed through the Zocalo, I noted doorways decorated with flowers, young boys tossing balloons, mothers and fathers strolling with their infants hugged to their bosom or nestled in carriages. A bandstand was set up awaiting the next performance. More tourists are in town meandering, eating in outdoor cafes.

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Soon Muertos will be here. Another opportunity to count blessings, to appreciate life and to honor those who gave it to us.

16 responses to “Getting Ready for Dia de los Muertos in Oaxaca, Parade of the Catrinas

  1. Thanks for the photos and article,Norma. I’m àlready missing the love and fun of Dia de los Muertos, but will be back “home” next year.

  2. Norma,

    I was moved by your two-weeks-away comments about Muertos. Thank you.


    • Bryan, I sincerely appreciate this comment. When I was in NNorth Carolina during Muertos in years past, I still made a memory altar. It’s a great way to stay emotionally connected to loved ones who passed in a very tangible way. I love how Mexicans honor these rituals and make them accessible and not to be feared. All best to you. Norma

  3. Hola Amiga. We are here, just arrived. Can’t wait to see what Oaxaca looks like. Excited ad do very happy to be here.

    Jo Ann and Tom

  4. Your pictures are fabulous. I enjoy your blog very much. Pam

  5. Norma

    It was nice to meet you ever so briefly at the opera… Great presentation no? Anyways, if you have still have some Brigitte’s pieces, and have a small narrow bracelet I would be interested in it.. if you could give me a price..The clasp of the one I had bought broke and I want to purchase another bracelet for my daughter… Many thanks email is above

    • Evelyne, thank YOU. I didn’t realize the seats were so close and I had a hard time seeing so I needed to move farther back. It was good to meet you, too. I don’t think I have. Small bracelet but I will look and let you know. Mostly what I have are necklaces, pendants and larger bracelets. Un abrazo. Norma

  6. Thanks, Norma, wish we could be there!

  7. Beautiful, thoughtful. Muchas gracias, Norma

  8. Hi Norma – please refresh my memory – is Los Danzantes restaurant the
    one with the retractable ceiling? If it is, we ate there on 2 occasions….very nice!!!!!

    Thanks, Susanne

    Thanks, Susanne

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