From October 27 to November 3, you want to be on the streets of Oaxaca and out in the surrounding villages to take in all that this Day of the Dead — Dia de los Muertos — celebration offers. Don’t forget to wander into patio courtyards off the four major city avenues: the Andador Alcala, Cinco de Mayo, Garcia Virgil and Reforma between Constitucion and Hidalgo (and adjoining cross streets) to get the full experience. Poke your nose into churches, too. Drink hot chocolate or mezcal.
So much to do. So little time. You must return!
Tuesday, October 27-Tuesday, November 3
- Festival Arte del Pueblo, San Martin Tilcajete
Thursday, October 29
- San Felipe Usila textile expoVENTA, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at El Diablo y La Sandia Boca del Monte
- Explore the vast Abastos Market for altar decorations, pan de muertos (Day of the Dead bread), sugar skulls and lots of marigold flowers. Leave your bling behind and keep your money close to your chest.
Friday, October 30
- San Felipe Usila textile expoVENTA, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Casa de Las Bugambilias, Free
- Tour Xaquixe Sustainable Blown Glass Studio, 10 a.m., tickets at Christian Thornton Gallery, Centro Historico
- Book Premiere Party Milpa: From Seed to Salsa, 6 p.m. at Instituto de Artes y Graficas (IAGO), bilingual, amazing story of indigenous corn in Oaxaca by Chef Susana Trilling, photographer Judith Cooper Haden, and writers Phil and Kathy Dahl-Bredine. Recipes, photos, commentary.
Saturday, October 31
- Metropolitan Opera at Teatro Macedonio Alcala, 12 p.m., Wagner’s Tannhauser (Is it a stretch to make the link to Muertos?)
- Santa Cruz Xoxocotlan Panteon (Cemetery). I always go early with a first stop to the old cemetery to catch magic hour photos before going into the bigger, crazier, newer cemetery.
- Santa Maria Atzompa Panteon (Cemetery), low-key, reflective experience
Sunday, November 1
- Panteon General, Oaxaca de Juarez, the big, city-center cemetery.
- San Agustin Etla Comparsas, parades and fantastic mirror costumes.
- San Pablo Villa de Mitla Panteon, way out at the end of the Tlacolula valley, where meaning and memory are part of the tradition and the Zapotec definition of Mitla is “place of the dead.”
Monday, November 2
- Teotitlan del Valle Panteon, starts at 6 p.m. Intimate, low-key, village experience. Why not spend the night at Casa Elena or Las Granadas?
Tuesday, November 3
- San Antonino Velasco Castillo. This village in the Ocotlan valley, most famous for its embroidered wedding dresses, is the premier flower-growing center of the region. They supply most of the marigolds for altars throughout Oaxaca. Muertos is celebrated here as the grand finale to the week of remembrance.
Day of the Dead Resources and Tours
- How to Build a Day of the Dead Altar
- Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca
- Oaxaca Lending Library Day of the Dead Tours
- Las Bugambilias Day of the Dead Tours
- Mexico Retold Day of the Dead Guide
Traffic Alert: The Mercado 20 de Noviembre is under construction with many stalls displaced to surrounding streets, clogging the major arteries and making it difficult to gather altar necessities near the zocalo for Muertos, like bread, fruit, candles, sugar skulls and flowers. FYI. Best bet? Head to Abastos.
Photography in village cemeteries — a word of caution and advice: Oaxacaqueños love tourists. We are their lifeline to economic well-being. And, it is really disconcerting and disrespectful to point a camera lens in someone’s face who is sitting vigil by a gravesite without asking permission to take a photo. It’s a simple question: Podria tomarle su foto? or Puedo a tomar su foto? This simple question will take you far and usually get a nod of consent.
Any events or activities to add? Please post them in comments! Mil gracias.
Norma Schafer writes and photographs from Oaxaca, Mexico. Her work has been featured in the New York Times 36-Hours in Oaxaca, included in the Levine Museum of the New South exhibition NUEVOlution! Latinos and the New South, and published in Minerva Rising Women’s Literary Magazine.
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