Tag Archives: parades

Mexico Travel Photography: Day of the Dead Photo Challenge, Norma’s Picks

Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group of 287 members just finished up submitting a photo a day as part of a five-day photography challenge. Here are the statistics:

STATS: Last week’s 5-Day Photo Challenge, Day of the Dead. 39 people participated all week. They posted 136 photos total. 15 people posted 5 days in a row. Congratulations to all.

Panteón de Romerillo, municipio de San Juan Chamula, Chiapas, by Ana Paula Fuentes

Panteón de Romerillo, San Juan Chamula district, Chiapas, by Ana Paula Fuentes

Special thanks to the 15 people with 5-day staying power: Karen Otter, Ann Conway, Maité Guadarrama, Diane Hobbs, Martha Canseco Bennetts, Betsy McNair, Mary Anne Huff Shaw, Aurora Cabrera, Gail Schacter, Shannon Pixley Sheppard, Cristina Potters, Nick Hamblen, Kathryn Leide, Geri Anderson, Karen Nein.

San Martin Tilcajete cemetery, by Karen Nein

San Martin Tilcajete cemetery, by Karen Nein

I selected a few to show you here. Why these? All selections, of course, are personal judgment. I happened to like the light or composition or subject matter. I’m also attracted to blurred images lately, as well as a high contrast black and white photography.

La Señora de Recycling, Toluca, by Betsy McNair

La Señora de Recycling, Toluca, by Betsy McNair

Sometimes, a photo is innovative — the photographer shot from an unusual angle or perspective, came in close or got the sky exactly right.

Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato cemetery, by Nick Hamblen

Mineral de Pozos, Guanajuato cemetery, by Nick Hamblen

You can see from these that the subject does not have to be looking right at you. The photo can be crisp or slightly out of focus.

Getting into the spirit early in San Miguel de Allende, by Laura Bly

Getting into the spirit early in San Miguel de Allende, by Laura Bly

Ihuatzio, Michoacan cemetery, by Florence Leyret Jeune

Ihuatzio, Michoacan cemetery, by Florence Leyret Jeune

Setting the scene matters. Telling a story counts.

Oaxaca Bachillerato Comparsa (parade) 2013. Her costume is embellished with natural plant materials. By Diane Hobbs

Oaxaca Bachillerato Comparsa (parade) 2013, by Diane Hobbs

Etla Comparsa by Karen Otter

Etla Comparsa by Karen Otter

I bet hundreds of people took photos of the suspended marigolds at the textile museum and not many saw the juxtaposition of orange against blue sky.

Museo Textil de Oaxaca, by Gail Schacter

Museo Textil de Oaxaca, by Gail Schacter

Oaxaca children's procession, by Barbara Szombatfalvy

Oaxaca children’s procession, by Barbara Szombatfalvy

Oaxaca, bringing flowers to the grave, by Kathryn Leide

Oaxaca, bringing fragrant marigolds to the grave, by Kathryn Leide

San Felipe, Chiapas cemetery, by Ann Conway

San Felipe, Chiapas cemetery, by Ann Conway

As you can see, Dia de los Muertos is one of my favorite holidays, right up there with Thanksgiving in the USA. I’m having a hard time letting go the the days behind us, but soon, we’ll be showing images leading up to the Christmas celebrations in Mexico.

Oaxaca Comparsa by Erin Loughran

Oaxaca Comparsa by Erin Loughran

Kids' parade, San Miguel de Allende, 2013, by Gina Hyams

Kids’ parade, San Miguel de Allende, 2013, by Gina Hyams

Tlacolula market Muertos flower vendors, by Christophe Gaillot

Tlacolula market Muertos flower vendors, by Christophe Gaillot

Hope you like this curated selection. To see them all, go to Mexico Travel Photography.

In two weeks, I leave for India. Look for posts about the textiles I find there. Meanwhile, enjoy this beautiful autumn season.

From Los Angeles, con abrazos, Norma.


The Children: Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, Mexico

Children fully take part in Day of the Dead here in Oaxaca, Mexico, too. They are an important part of the ritual and celebration. They go with family members to sit vigil by grave sites regardless of age. Death is an integral part of life here and not to be feared.

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On October 30 a children’s procession is held along the Andador Macedonio Alcala to honor the souls of the young ones who left this world too soon. Count Dracula and La Calavera Catrina are popular figures for costumes.

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I came across a group of five-year olds, their parents and grandparents, assembled in a city square waiting for the procession to begin. They were all from the same class at the same school.

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One grandparent made certain to tell me that they made the little one’s costume all from crepe paper. It was very elegant and disposable.

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Some of the costumes are handmade.  Others are store-bought and similar to what we might see on Halloween in the USA.

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Without a doubt, watching the children is a real treat and part of the allure of being here in Oaxaca on Day of the Dead. And, doesn’t this one say it all!

Day of the Dead: Parades and Costume Creativity

In Oaxaca, the Day of the Dead parades are called comparsas.  On the first day of our seasonal photography expedition, color, sound, and the display of unparalleled costume creativity bombard us.


Frank Hunter, whose work was just published in the New York Times, and our instructor for this week, starts the workshop by showing photo examples captured using manual camera setting.

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We begin with simple subjects like the ancient fountain at the Quinta Real Hotel, once a Dominican convent.  Take at least five or six frames of each subject, manipulating the shutter speed one or two stops for each, advises Frank.  Then, you can see what the light will do.

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We are to use manual settings with a fixed f-stop of 8 and ISO of 500, and only manipulate the shutter speed to experiment with how might light to let into the lens.   Today is an exercise in light and what a fast or slower shutter speed will produce.


The idea of moving away from automatic is daunting for most.  So, the idea of using manual and making adjustments based on a greater understanding of how the camera works can be a challenge.

We could practice by shooting landscapes, objects, scenes, and details.  My subject seemed to develop into Maquillaje Mexicano.


As we approach Alcala from our walk through the city, first to Santo Domingo, then to Plaza de la Danza where the teams are building sand sculptures, we hear the hubbub and band personnel tuning instruments.

We come upon a competition among high schools.  They are to use recycled materials in their costumes for the afternoon Day of the Dead parade starting from the Zocalo.    The whole process of make-up artistry fascinates me and I linger to get as much detail as I can.


The staging was magnificent.  The groups moved slowly up the walking avenue, Macedonia Alcala, giving the crowd lots of time to take photos, show due appreciation, and dance to the live music.



There is always love on the street, couples in embrace, stealing kisses and today is no exception, even attired in painted newspaper evening dress.

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The visual frenzy is eye candy, a feast for the senses.  Zapotec and Aztec symbolism is rampant.  Corn goddesses stand straight and mute, careful not to disturb their heavy headdresses, while supplicants dance in circles around them.


Girlfriends take special care to paint each other and apply make-up that will be the most dramatic and daring.

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A revolutionary war hero on stilts cries the Grito as costumed campesinos accompany him.

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Yellow nail polish and chicken livers provide enough imagination to give me a chill and a thrill.

Day of the Dead Parades in Oaxaca

Cheryl and I were sitting on the Zocalo at a lovely outdoor table under the Portico Benito Juarez at Restaurante Terra Nova.  I was sipping my favorite non-alcoholic beverage — mineral water bubbly mixed with fresh-squeezed limeade and eating a delicious chicken, avocado and cheese sandwich made with whole wheat baguette. The Zocalo was ablaze in color.

The Scene:  Sky pure blue, air fresh and clear, jacarandas in full bloom regalia giving forth bright coral flowers.  Balloon vendors held their own parade, holding dozens of reflective beauties by strings ready for parents to buy for begging children.  The young woman selling multi-colored cotton candy could easily hide behind her offerings.

There was an air of expectancy, excitement, the burst of Muertos energy waiting to happen.  Then I heard them.  The sound of a band coming toward us, trumpets, drums, tuba, clarinets, flutes.

Behind them was a wave of colorful banners, streamers and flags carried by children, women and men dressed in extraordinary Isthmus of Tehuantepec splendor.  Those too young to walk rode on the shoulders of fathers, brothers and uncles.  Even the grandmothers joined the parade!

It is a perfect time for mothers and daughters to dress up and take part together.

And for little boys to practice being big caballeros.

Oaxaca is a surprise this time of year.  Around every corner is something extraordinary.

Oaxaca Portraits: Parade of the Baskets, Teotitlan del Valle 2011

Oaxaca festivals are more than colorful.  They are a sacred experience. Every year beginning on July 5 and lasting for a week, the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle celebrates its Catholic origins and saint day to honor the church–La Iglesia de Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Senor Jesucristo.  The festival includes an opening celebratory parade — the Parade of the Baskets (Calenda de las Canastas), followed by the Dance of the Feather (Danza de la Pluma), special dinners, and a traveling carnival that overtakes the entire market area complete with rides and food stalls.

Framed by the baskets they will carry on their heads

Framed by the baskets they will carry on their heads

During the late afternoon on July 5 more than a hundred young women participated in with the Calenda de Preciosa Sangre de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.  They first gather in groups of about 25-30 at the various homes of the members of the village governing committee.

Janet Chavez Santiago

Then, they travel by truck to the church where they assemble and form the parade line, accompanied by their family sponsors.

Gathering for the Calendula

I am fortunate to know the family members of Casa Santiago.  Our photography expedition group  had the privilege of being invited to the home of Pedro Santiago Mendez, the president of the church,  where the young women gathered and waited to be transported.  It was a delicious photo opportunity to capture the intimacy and mystery of the celebration through portraiture.

Wearing traditional dress

All the aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews gathered at the patron’s home to begin the celebration, prepare the celebratory meal to be taken at the end of the calenda, and offer traditional family support and camaraderie.

The young women who participate in make a commitment to the traditions of the village by wearing the indigenous dress and honoring their history.  A requirement is that they are unmarried.

Now, only the older generation wears the traditional dress in daily life, so preserving this through the calenda is an important Teotitlan del Valle value.

La senora de la casa with granddaughter

Mother and son

Our photography expeditions create an intimate experience.  See our Day of the Dead Photography Expedition that will offer a similar opportunity for access and exploration.

Guisado, celebratory stew on the comal--muy rico!