Dia de Muertos…

November 17, 2010

Since arriving in Mexico, we kept it in the back of our minds that there might be a chance to be in Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead celebration.  As our travels and pace unraveled, that likelihood became a reality.  We arrived late on October 30th and over the next few days got to experience and partake in many Dia de Muertos rituals and celebrations.

It is believed that in death loved ones do not actually leave, but merely continue their life in a parallel world and for one day a year the departed can return to their homes to be with their families.  For departed children that day is November 1st and for adults, November 2nd. Everywhere you look there are archways made of marigold flowers and altars containing offerings of fruits, bread and drinks for the visiting spirits.  I was also told that some families may leave their lost one’s favorite games or activities, such as paints and brushes if they were an artist.

I visited the Panteon General, Oaxaca‘s main cemetery, both days, marveling at the commotion and celebration that was occurring.  On one hand, there was a circus happening outside the gates.  Literally, a carnival was set up, with rides and games and various stalls selling food and offerings lined the walkways toward the entrance.  Within the cemetery, the mood was still one of lightness and celebrating, but much more respectful.  Each day more and more graves would be covered in flowers, food and candles.  Some families would be gathered around, chairs set up and a regular family dinner occurring.  My favorite was the older man who brought in a xylophone and played furiously while the family danced happily around that particular gravesite.  The respect paid was so unlike the mourning you often see occupany death and cemeteries.  I must say that in glancing around, with the soft flicker of candles catching the corners of so many smiles, it was truly one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my time here in Mexico.

 

An altar with offerings to the deceased, including some rather famous icons...

Local artists decorate these large paper mache skulls and they are on display along the walking streets throughout the week...

In the evenings, the Zocalo was decorated with hundreds of candles...

...illuminating the gazebo in a fairytale like way...

The evening of November 1st was a fantastic frenzy, with celebrations and parades happening all throughout the city's streets...

Never to miss an opportunity to sell stuff, these vendors lined the walkways leading into the cemetery. A bit bizarre, but at the same time all in the good fun of the holdiay...

A walk through the graveyard culminated my understanding of the holiday. Everywhere I looked there were beautifully decorated and cared for sites, exhibiting the true colors of Dia de Muertos...

The love and honoring shown clearly in the time these offerings take and the attention to detail...

And yes, it was a lot of continuous, upbeat celebrating. Sometimes you can't help but pass out on a sidewalk...

 

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