Dias de los Muertos (Days of the Dead) is a special time in Mexico. Celebrations take place over several days from October 31 to November 2, but related activities happen before and after these dates. Different villages have different celebratory customs, and may observe different dates.
The common theme is that the dead are welcomed home with incense, flowers – marigolds and cockscomb (Celosia cristata) – and special foods, to visit with their loved ones, and be remembered – it’s a celebration of life. Everywhere in Mexico celebrates Dias de los Muertos, but the province and city of Oaxaca is renowned for its elaborate celebrations.
Brad and I stayed at Casa Linda. It’s a peaceful and beautiful home, about 8km northeast of the city of Oaxaca, hosted by Linda Hanna, who is very knowledgable and passionate about Oaxacan art. On 31 October, Linda took her five household guests to two cemeteries and an artist’s home to see how the locals celebrate Dias de los Muertos.
We visited the Panteon General San Miguel, in Oaxaca city, which is an old formal cemetery, with corridor walls of candle-filled niches and sand paintings on the floors, and parading women dressed as Catrina skeletons. Outside, market stalls sell flowers and food. The atmosphere was very festive.
Later, we visited an artist’s home to view the ofrenda, filled with fruit and flowers, and a sand painting of Frida Kahlo.
Then, we visited Cementerio Nuevo, in the village of Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca. This was a newer cemetery, the layout was less formal. There was a band playing and candles everywhere, as families gathered around graves.