Day of the Dead History, Oaxaca Mexico
The Day of the Dead Festival is one of Oaxaca's most important celebrations, rivaling only Easter and Christmas in importance.
A visit to the cemeteries near Oaxaca on the first two nights of November can be a magical time because of the thousands of candles, the pungent scent of marigold flowers, and the essence of burning copal incense. Each village celebrates at different times and with different intensity but the evenings can be ones of magic as the families chant the ancient dirges and wait for the spirits to return.
Flowers and candles make the cemeteries mysterious places during the November vigil for the spirits.
Flowers decorate the home altars and tombs. Marigold is the flower with a special meaning that goes back to pre-Hispanic times. The marigold is called the Fleur de Meurto, the flower of death, and often a trail of marigold petals will point the way for the wandering spirit. In the evening the family sits by the tomb and light thousands of candles that they hope will guide the returning spirits.
In the old cemetery of XoXo Cotlon, candles light the night as families sit by the tombs.
In the town of Tlalixtac south of Oaxaca City the families sit by
the decorated tombs while brass bands move through the cemetery
The Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City Mexico is an exciting time of festival, music, parades.
performance. art, and regional cuisine.
Cemetery vigils at candle-lit tombs make Oaxaca unique.
Oaxaca Mexico is a magical place to be during The Day Of The Dead celebration.
In one of the most important events of the year in Oaxaca, a cemetery visit on the last night of October
and the first night of November might leave you wondering how it all began. The cemetery full of candlelight
and the aroma of copal incense mixed with the heady scent of marigold flowers converging with the mournful
dirges and soulful guitars could overload your senses on your first visit.
Where did it start?
Go back two thousand or more years and you would find some connections.
The indigenous people of Oaxaca sit by the tombs in their night time cemetery vigil and offer gifts to the spirits
just as they have done for countless centuries.
The Spanish found them participating in this ritual and tried to introduce European and Christian overtones.
They never totally subdued the pagan ritual.
Being practical and having limited space in the cemetery the people start by cleaning and decorating the tombs
during the day, a sight in itself. If a tomb is not tended it will be reused by another family.
During the afternoon of October 31, tons of marigold flowers come to the cemetery in wheelbarrows and trucks
to adorn the grave sites.
Meanwhile, in each home, the people will also have created an altar (offering table) stacked high with treats like
chocolate, loaves of special bread, candies fruit and all the other treats that the departed enjoyed in life; they
are trying to attract the spirit of their loved one.
Gifts of food and drink like these are not without precedent; archaeologists find residue of them in ancient tombs.
Visitors are welcome in the Oaxaca cemeteries and the people hope that the guest will appreciate their
decorations of the home altar and their candle-lit tomb. They hope also that the decorations and treats will
attract the spirits.
Oaxaca City celebrates the lead-up to the November event with music in the streets,gallery openings with
Oaxacan art, museum exhibits, and the decorating of altars in the streets, Oaxaca's hotels and shops decorate
their lobbies and the restaurants feature the regional cuisine of Oaxaca They turn the event into a week-long party.
Day of the Dead History Cemetery Celebration In Oaxaca, Mexico
On the three day November holiday, family members return to their home village to join in the preparation of the graveyards and tombs for the return of the spirits. In most villages, flowers play an important role in decorating the tombs,
Families also build a home altar with pride and leave offerings for the spirits in an east facing room that include all the virtues and vices that the departed might have enjoyed in life.
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Schedule of Cemetery Visits
Xoxocotlan. This town a few miles southwest of Oaxaca City has two Cemeteries, Cementario Viejo, and the new Cementario Nuevo.
October 31, the village of Atzompa holds a later cemetery vigil starting around 11 pm.
Day of the Dead November 1,
Oaxaca City Cemetery, Panteon General on the east side of the city
Tlaixtac de Cabrera, six miles south east of Oaxaca City
San Felipe del Agua, north of Oaxaca City November 2,
Village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco A flower growing village that celebrates a week after the others
The Day of the Dead, in Oaxaca, Mexico has roots in the ancient cultures of pre-Hispanic Mexico. Today the Celebration is an exciting time of festival, music, parades, performance, art, and regional cuisine.
The cemeteries become sites for visitors on the Day of the Dead, in Oaxaca City during the last night of October and the first two nights of November
|Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico
The Day of the Dead Cemetery visit transportation is available from Oaxaca city by bus, taxi, or auto.
- Day Of The Dead, Cemetery visits Transportation
Cemetery visits occur on October 31, November 1 and Nov. 2nd within a few miles of the city.
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.
Visitors can also reach the cemeteries by taxi, collective taxi, or bus. Arrange for your return with the driver or determine the loading place for the taxis and collective taxis at the village when you arrive. It could be difficult to find later in the evening. Bus service will end around ten pm for some locations.
How To Reach the Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico Cemeteries for Visits