Oaxaca Day of the Dead Day Tour: Ocotlan Highway, October 27, 2023

Get a head start on Day of the Dead and arrive a few days early to enjoy the rich artisan culture and history of our region’s villages. Each artisan we visit along the Ocotlan Highway will not only talk about and demonstrate their craft, they will discuss their personal experiences and traditions growing up and honoring their ancestors during Day of the Dead. When you participate with us, you will go deep into a rich Zapotec history and culture that pre-dates the Spanish conquest of 1521 and the settlement of Oaxaca as a colonial capitol.

It’s Friday! Ocotlan Market Day. Here we will meander the aisles to explore the special foods, flowers and decorations needed for Day of the Dead home altars. This includes special breads, marigolds that help the deceased find their way back to their living families with the aroma, copal incense, sugar cane stalks, candles, hot chocolate and famous Oaxaca mole. Each has a meaning we will explain to you.

Our day together starts at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 5:00 p.m. We will pick you up at a central meeting place in the Historic Center of Oaxaca. We will notify you of the location two weeks before the tour.

As we go down the Ocotlan Highway, we stop to visit a famous black pottery maker in San Bartolo Coyotepec. She tells us that working with the clay brings her peace, offers her a voice as a woman, and keeps alive the heritage she is so proud of. Our master potter is also an important volunteer official in village administration, one of the first women in the region to serve in this capacity. After her household chores are completed, she takes refuge in her workshop to give life to mermaids, angels, birds and other creatures of her imagination. Barro negro (black clay) is a craft that was made Oaxaca famous by Doña Rosa, and the tradition continues today.

We continue on to explore the workshop and techniques of one of the best alebrijes makers in Oaxaca. Alebrijes are intricately carved copal wood anthropomorphic figures that are then highly decorated in detail with the finest brush strokes to evoke a sense of a living figure. The village of San Martin Tilcajete is best known for this type of work. After the studio visit, we make our way to ALMU restaurant out in the campo (countryside) where traditional cooks prepare lunch in the ancient style over wood-fired clay comales. You will sample mole negro the way it is made in the villages, an important offering during Day of the Dead during the family meal.

Then, we stop to explore the life-size clay figures of sculptor and Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art Don Jose Garcia and his family. The outdoor patio is filled with completed and works in progress and a walk-in wood-fired kiln to hold the gargantuan pieces. Don Jose is blind but feels his work with his hands. We have known him for over 15 years, before he was invited repeatedly to the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Each family we visit will describe their traditional celebrations for Day of the Dead along with giving us a demonstration of their craft.

A visit down the Ocotlan Highway also necessitates a stop at the county administrative building that houses some amazing frescoes — murals painted by famous artist Rodolfo Morales. He restored the adjacent church and a museum is established next to it in honor of his contributions. In fact, the town was renamed Ocotlan de Morales to honor him. Ocotlan is known for woven baskets, leather work, and a hat maker who fashions sombreros out of beaver and rabbit fur.

Join us to learn about cultural customs around Day of the Dead as you prepare for your own celebrations in Oaxaca.


Tour cost is $138 per person. This includes transportation in a luxury van, bilingual guide services with translation, and lunch. A $35 non-refundable deposit per person will reserve your space.

Final payment is due in cash (either dollars or equivalent pesos) on the day of the tour.

Deposits can be made with a Zelle transfer (no service fee), or with Venmo or PayPal (with a 3% service fee). Please tell us by email which payment method you prefer along with your intent to participate, how many people will be in your party, and we will send you a request for funds. We will confirm once we receive your deposit. Thank you.

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