Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca

In the state of Oaxaca, the celebration of the “Day of the Dead” has pre-Hispanic origins and starts in mid October with the purchase of the products to be placed as an offering on an altar. Well in advance, the markets are prepared and they dress up with odors and colors that are characteristic of this season.

This tradition, full of worship, celebration, magic and mysticism, is especially practiced in the cemeteries, where altars for the dead are displayed and people watch over their dead. The “Altar of the Dead” is placed in the family home and on top the graves in the cemeteries, to honor the deceased loved ones.

The offering consists of flowers, generally called “flor de Puerto” or “cempaxúchitl”, black or red mole, haw apples in syrup, nicuatole, seasonal fruits, chocolate, pan de muerto, mezcal, tamales and the dishes that the deceased enjoyed at home. For the illumination of souls, castor oil lamps, candles and white or yellow copal incense are set on the grave, burning and producing aromatic scents. Dates have been set for the visiting of the cemeteries of Oaxaca City.

Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca

The days are distributed as follows: (November 2) Panteón of San Miguel (General), Jardín San Felipe del Agua and Ixcotel, (first Monday in November) Pantéon del Marquesado, (second Monday in November) Panteón of San Martín, (third Monday in November) Panteón San Juan Chapultepec and (fourth Monday in November) Panteón de Xochimilco.

During these festivities groups parade through city streets representing death, the devil, the sick, the priest and the doctor, all interpreting the patient’s chart: death wants to take him to Heaven, the devil to hell and medical personnel who want to save him from dying.

All represented with humor and rhyming dialogues. In the different cemeteries, and, particularly in the Alameda de León of the city, an exhibition of mosaics and flower carpets takes place. This event also takes place in some surrounding villages.

Visit the Panteón de San Miguel (General)

Since 1996, the City Council has organized activities to worship the dead at the Panteón de San Miguel, better known as the General Cemetery. An altar is placed al the “Tomb of the Forgotten Dead of the Unfinished Chapel” with offerings and treats for the dead who will come to savor. The altar is adorned with cempaxúchitl flowers, oil lamps, breads, finishing at the top of the arch with portraits of the devoted saints and photographs of the deceased. The nights of October 31 and November 1, 2,400 candles are lit in the niches of the arcade of the Campo Santo, creating a special lighting inside the cemetery. Sand carpets are set up for the raising of the cross and the visit is enlivened with music bands that play tunes until midnight. At 6 pm on November 1, the “Altars for the Dead Contest”, is performed in which the general population is involved, representing altars from the various regions of the state.

Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca

Visit the Panteón de Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán

One of the most traditional evening festivities of the “Day of the Dead” is the one that takes place in the municipality of Xoxocotlán, where there are two cemeteries, an old one and new one; in both the dead are guarded from 7 PM until 5 or 6 AM of the next morning. On the top of the tomb, a cross is formed with cockscombs, cempaxúchitl, and other flowers. Clay and sugar skulls are also placed on the tomb. On November 2, the priest of the location celebrates a Mass at 12 PM, concluding with the blessing of every grave.

Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca

Visit the Panteón de Xochimilco

The general activities carried out by the people who visit their deceased consist of cleaning, grooming, and guarding of tombs during the complete day, deceased Mass, rosary praying and prayer for the dead. Around the cemetery there are flower vendors selling candles, wreaths, empanadas, snacks, tepache and rides for children, which gives a festive air to the celebration of the “Day of the Dead”.

Day Of The Dead in Oaxaca