Oaxaca Day of the Dead Sand Painting
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Sand Painting
Day of the Dead  Bas Relief Sand Painting, Oaxaca
The bas relief, Day of the Dead sand paintings are popular in Oaxaca where sand paintings are done in two ways, the traditional flat and the bas relief.  Sand paintings are part of the November holiday during which families hold a cemetery vigil
Day of the Dead Designs With Flowers
Several styles of decoration mark the ceremony in Oaxaca, one is the tapete of flowers, (to the left), a painting much like a sand painting but done with flower buds, petals and whole flowers.
The decoration will adorn the tomb or grave site. The same style or similar could  be done with sand and colored powder creating a sand painting.

This design is similar to the sand painting done flat and called traditional. Decorations will likely incorporate Christian motifs, others will make a political statement.  The trend now is to create larger and larger sand paintings of three dimensions, high relief.
The sand paintings honor either a saint or an important historic figure.
The Day of the Dead in Oaxaca:
Flowers still play the most important part in the ceremony and the markets are heaped with marigold and cockscomb, the flowers with special meaning that the families will use to decorate their home offering tables and tombs.  
The bas relief sand painting has become popular in some villages as artists develop the technique.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Flower Market
Oaxaca Day of the Dead cemetery
Oaxaca Day of the Dead flower Painting
A sand painter uses  stencils to decorate a tomb with colored sand.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Sand Painting
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Sand Painting
The Day of the Dead sand painting to the left is traditional flat,  done with stencils and colored sand and powder.
To the right is a Native American theme  inspired by the Mixtec codex.

The latest trend is to make large, bas relief sand paintings. The one pictured at the top of this page, done at the museum in Oaxaca's former Government Offices building is a huge bas relief sand painting.
The Day of the Dead in Oaxaca sees each village in the surrounding mountains and valleys celebrate at different times and with different intensity.
Several villages prefer the bas relief sand paintings or a combination of sand and flower petals. The evenings are unique as families come to the graveyards and light return.
Day of the Dead Cemetery Visit
A  visit to the cemeteries near Oaxaca on the last night of October and the first two nights of November can be a magical time. Thousands of candles and marigold flowers decorate the tombs.  The smell of copal incense and marigold petals, the sight of thousands of candles, and the lively music of a brass band or the baleful moans of a religious dirge make the night unique.  

Day of the Dead Street Sand Paintings
The buildup to the event can be just as intriguing as the city prepares and turns several pedestrian-only streets over to artists and students who create sand painting with an historic or religious theme, most of them in high bas relief.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Schedule of Cemetery Visits

October, 31
Xoxocotlan. This town a few miles southwest of Oaxaca City  has two Cemeteries, Cementario Viejo, and the new cemetery, Cementario Nuevo.   Many visitors make this a crowded cemetery by 10:00 PM
The old cemetery is a magic place, however,  when it is lit by thousands of candles.
Reach Xoxocotlan:  first time visitors are best served by going with a tour company although the village is near Oaxaca city and easily reached by public bus, taxi, and collective taxi.  
Collective taxis run from a station on Calle (street) Miguel Cabrera five blocks south of the Zocalo.


October 31, the village of Atzompa holds a later cemetery vigil starting around 11 pm. Music into the night a less crowded event easily reached by taxi.  Arrange for a return trip.

Day of the Dead November 1
Oaxaca City Cemetery, Panteon General on the east side of the city, 7 blocks east of the Santo Domingo Church offers displays and competition of traditional altars  (ofrenda)  from many ethnic regions of Oaxaca.

Tlalixtac de Cabrera, six miles southeast of Oaxaca City.  A lively celebration with brass bands, strolling guitar groups.

San Felipe del Agua, north of Oaxaca City, November 2, a family cemetery vigil easily reached by public bus or taxi.  

Village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco  A flower growing village south of the city of Oaxaca that celebrates a week after the others
This  Day of the Dead Sand Painting in contrast to bas relief sand painting is the traditional flat sand painting done with stencils and the use of colored powder and flowers and candles to decorate the grave.  
A large Bas Relief Sand painting done on the first floor of the Oaxaca Museum.  This sand painting is in high relief with sand moded by hand and colored powder applied.
Day of the Dead  Sand Paintings in  Oaxaca are less popular than the painting with flowers. Each village differs in style.
Cemetery Schedule, best times to visit Oaxaca area cemeteries
Oaxaca Day of the Dead flower Market, marigold and cockscomb will decorate tombs along with the bas relief sand painting
Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico
  • Day Of The Dead,  Reach the Cemeteries:  
The Day of the Dead Cemetery visit transportation is available from Oaxaca city by bus, taxi, or car.  Cemetery visits occur on October 31, November 1 and Nov. 2nd.  
  • Guided Cemetery Tours
First time visitors are best off with one of the many Oaxaca Tour Agencies such as Borroco Tours located on Garcia Vigil  (street)  They arrange small or large group van and bus tours for visitors to the villages.  They guide you in the cemetery, help you make photos, and provide local information about the event.
  • Self Guided Tour
Otherwise the best option is taxi, collective taxi, or bus to the village.  Arrange for your return or determine the loading place at the village when you arrive.  It could be difficult to find later in the evening.  
Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico, Cemetery Visits Transportation
Day of The Dead
Bas Relief
Sand Painting
Bus To Xoxocotlan
The public bus runs to Xoxo south on Benito Juarez past the Llano Park.  The bus is marked  Xoxo.  
Another bus runs from a terminal
six bocks south of the Zocalo on Avenue Bustamante, one block past the
church on your left.  This bus runs to Zaachila with stops in Xoxocotlan and Cuilapan.
Buses do not run after 11 pm
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