Day of the Dead Oaxaca, Mexico, History
The Day of the Dead Festival in Oaxaca is a three-day November holiday when families clean the graves and prepare the tombs for the return of the spirits.
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 and the marigolds and cockscomb flowers that decorate the tombs. Each village celebrates at different times and with different intensity but the evenings are sure to be unique as families come to the graveyards to sit by the tombs and wait for the spirits to return.
The markets are full of flowers that the families will use to decorate their home altars and tombs Marigold and cockscomb are the flowers with special meaning. The marigold is called the Fleur de Meurto, the flour of death. In the evening the family sits by the tomb and waits for the return of the spirits.
In the new cemetery of XoXo Cotlon, artist Juan Cruz Pascual decorates with a sand painting replete with Christian motifs
In the town of Tlalixtac south of Oaxaca City the families sit by
the decorated tombs while brass bands move through the cemetery
Part of the excitement of the season in Oaxaca comes when the shops in the cosmopolitan city decorate with candles and flower petals in an unspoken competition of artistic display
Oaxaca's Day of the Dead History:
The Day of the Dead has a long history in Oaxaca that goes back thousands of years. The custom of leaving an offering at the tomb is in evidence when archaeologists excavate old tombs and find vessel with food residue left as gifts for the departed.
Other forerunners of the ritual in Oaxaca are hard to pin down. The use of Marigold flowers and the spreading of flower petals in a trail to the grave and the inclusion of chocolate in the building of an altar (ofrenda) does more than hint at a pre-Hispanic origin for the custom, however, since chocolate is a new world plant and spreading flowers before the feet of the emperor was a common pre-Hispanic ritual.
In any event during Oaxaca's Day Of The Dead the indigenous people decorate their home altars with marigold flowers, chocolate, loaves of special bread, and candles and then on the last day of October they decorate their tombs. They invite visitors to come to the cemetery as they sit by the graveside in a night vigil of waiting for the return of the spirits.
Oaxaca City becomes an exciting place to be during the festival with music, Oaxacan art, museum exhibitions, and the decorating of altars in the streets, Oaxaca's hotels and shops decorate their entry ways and the restaurants feature the regional cuisine of Oaxaca as they spend the last week of October preparing for Oaxaca's Day of the Dead. See Schedule below
Tourist Information Center Secretaria de Tourismo
How to Get There
From the Zocalo go north to the Llano Park and the theatre building at 703, the office is on the right side of the building.
During the Day of The Dead, flowers decorate the tombs and home altars. Families leave offerings for the spirits in the home and at the cemetery, they leave paths of flower petals to guide the spirits..
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Schedule of Cemetery Visits
Xoxocotlan. This town a few miles southwest of Oaxaca City has two Cemeteries, Cemetario Viejo, and the new cemetery Nuevo.
October 31, the village of Atzompa holds a later cemetery vigil starting around 11 pm.
Day of the Dead November 1
San Felipe del Agua, north of Oaxaca City,
Oaxaca City Cemetery, Panteon General on the east side of the city
Tlaixtac de Cabrera, six miles south east of Oaxaca City
Vllage of San Antonino Castillo Velasco A flower growing village that celebrates a week after the others
Day of the Dead Oaxaca, Mexico History goes back thousands of years. The custom of leaving an offering at the tomb is in evidence when archaeologists excavate old tombs and find vessel with food residue left as gifts for the departed.