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Posts Tagged ‘Day of the Dead’

Several pan de muerto festivals sprung up in the valley of Oaxaca during Día de los Muertos — including a Festival del Pan de Muerto in Villa Díaz Ordaz, a Feria del Pan de Muerto Adornado in Villa de Zaachila, and a Feria del Pan y Chocolate in the city of Oaxaca.  While the intention of these fairs is to attract tourists, both foreign and domestic, the primary market remains ofrendas (offerings) to the difuntos (departed) — who must be fed during their brief return to visit with their loved ones.

And, like apron styles, pan de muerto (bread of the dead) varies from village to village, be it sold at a feria, mercado, or neighborhood panadería.

Panadería Yalalag in Oaxaca city.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

San Pablo Villa de Mitla.

Mercado, 20 de noviembre, Oaxaca city.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila.

Villa de Zaachila

Villa de Zaachila.

Though my difuntos have departed and my altar has been disassembled, I couldn’t consign my beautiful (but stale) pan de muerto offerings to the garbage can.

Pan de muerto from Yalalag, Mitla, and Zaachila.

So, here they remain in a basket on my counter — until they disintegrate or the hormigas (ants) enjoy a feast.

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Under the dappled sunlight filtering through the 500 year old ahuehuete trees in the panteón of Tlacolula de Matamoros, lovingly placed fruit and nuts nourish the souls.  (Click on images to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, when the light and shadows dance on the graves, beautiful still lifes greet the departed, their living family, friends, and visitors.  It is a tranquil setting to contemplate the words of Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude, the other Mexico, and essays, Grove Press, 1985, p. 54)

The opposition between life and death was not so absolute to the ancient Mexicans as it is to us.  Life extended into death, and vice versa. Death was not the natural end of life but one phase of an infinite cycle.

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Today, at 3:00 PM in Teotitlán del Valle, as leaves in the mountains and fields rustled, the arrival of the difuntos (departed) was announced with the sound of cohetes (rockets) and church bells.  Incense burners were lit and placed in front of ofrendas in each home’s altar room — the smoke and scent of copal helping to guide the spirits home for their yearly twenty-four hour visit.

Tonight they will feast on tamales amarillos — special tamales that are traditionally served three times a year in Teotitlán — in July for the Fiesta de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo, in October for the Fiesta de la Virgen del Rosario, and today, November first, in honor of the returning difuntos.

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As we have done for many years, blogger buddy Chris and I came to the home of Zacarías Ruiz and Emilia Gonzalez with our offering of pan de muertos and a bottle of mezcal to place on their altar — paying our respects to their difuntos.  In turn, we were offered mezcal and cervesas (beer), followed by the aforementioned tamales amarillos.

The tamales were days in the making.  Several of the family’s organic free range chickens were sacrificed; corn from their milpa was nixtamalized to make a silky smooth masa; and the ingredients for mole amarillo were toasted, chopped, blended, and boiled.  The final preparation began at 3:30 this morning — 250 tamales were assembled, filled, and wrapped in fresh green leaves from their milpa and placed in the steaming pots.  The results were to die for!

For me, more than painted faces and parades, this is what makes experiencing Día de los Muertos in Oaxaca so special.

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Not all the Día de los Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila were finished, some were still works in progress…

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with ladders and paints standing by…

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waiting for their artists to pick up the brush…

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or spray can, as the case may be.

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I first saw many of the murals in the summer of 2017 and was happy to see they are still intact, albeit some are a little faded.  Celebrated by the community, the new murals join the old and become a part of the landscape of the village.

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A regalito (little gift) to my calaca and calavera loving grandson from today’s visit to Villa de Zaachila for their first Feria del Pan de Muerto, Mole, Chocolate y Espuma.

From murals along the outer side of the panteón (cemetery) in Villa de Zaachila.  Click to enlarge images.

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Today the sun (finally) came out and hundreds (thousands?) of pots of cempasúchil (aka, cempoalxóchitl, cempaxochitl, cempoal, zempoal, flor de muertos) arrived in the city center.

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This was a photo op not only for yours truly but also the local press, as they trailed after the wife of Oaxaca’s governor while she viewed the unloading…

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and planting of the iconic Día de los Muertos flowers in the beds of the Zócalo and Alameda.

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The color and fragrance of the cempasúchil provide a lovely setting to sit and contemplate the world (and check your cell phone).

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Oaxaca is putting on her best to welcome her difuntos (deceased) along with the thousands of tourists who will soon be arriving.

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For anyone who still wonders why in the world I have chosen to live in and thrive in Oaxaca, go see the latest Pixar movie, Coco.

Entrance to the Panteón de Xochimilco, Oaxaca – Oct. 31, 2017

The filmmakers “based the Rivera family — a multigenerational matriarchy headed by Miguel’s formidable abuelita, or grandmother — on real-world families with whom they embedded while visiting the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guanajuato between 2011 and 2013.”  (How Pixar Made Sure ‘Coco’ Was Culturally Conscious)

Panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

From the elaborately embroidered blouses and animated fantastical alebrije to the cemeteries and “life” of Día de los Muertos, Oaxaca provided an inspiration for the film.  (Coco, la nueva película de Disney-Pixar inspirada en Oaxaca)

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

It is the music and messiness, color and cacophony, and finding joy in just being.

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

“We absorbed details in every place that we visited, but the most valuable thing was the time we spent with Mexican families.”  (How Coco’s Directors Celebrated the Film’s Mexican Heritage)

Ofrenda display in the Biblioteca Pública Central de Oaxaca Margarita Maza de Juárez – Oct. 31, 2017

It is the Oaxaca of fiestas, street dogs, and papel picado.

Papel picado projected on the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Oaxaca – Oct. 30, 2017

Above all, it is about the importance of family, living and dead…

Public ofrenda in the atrium of the Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, Oaxaca – Oct. 31, 2017

“With all of its music and folklore and artwork, and the story itself, audiences so far feel Coco respects their families, living and remembered.”   (Mexico, Music And Family Take Center Stage In ‘Coco’)

Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca – Nov. 1, 2017

And, respect for one’s heritage and traditions.

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

This is the Oaxaca I fell in love with and treasure.

Panteón San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca – Nov. 4, 2017

This is the Oaxaca that captured by heart, daily enriches my life, and I call home.

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Looking back, in black and white…

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Magna Comparsa Oaxaca through the streets of the city on October 28, 2017.

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Tapetes de arena (rugs of sand) are a traditional feature of the celebration in Oaxaca of Día de Muertos.  When I first arrived to live here, they were drawn in front of the Cathedral.  Next, they moved for a year or two to the Government Palace and for the last several years they have graced the Plaza de la Danza.  This year’s offerings were the work of twelve artisans and feature the most beloved and revered of the Jesús and María señores y señoras in Oaxaca.  This post will highlight the ladies…

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Virgen Dolorosa — Our Lady of Sorrows

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Virgen del Carmen — Our Lady of Mount Carmel

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Sra. Virgen del Rosario — Our Lady of the Rosary

Interestingly, in previous years the themes of the sand paintings in these public spaces have been Día de Muertos related.  I’m not sure of why the change this year to religious imagery.  Indigenous Day of the Dead celebrations pre-date the arrival of the Spanish and the All Saints Day of the Catholic church.  And in Oaxaca, one of the most indigenous states in Mexico, as Shawn D. Haley points out in his book, Day of the Dead: When Two Worlds Meet in Oaxaca, “there is little of the Spanish influence to be found in the Oaxacan Day of the Dead.  The Spanish version… is bleak and dismal…. For the Oaxaqueñans, these days are… joyous and exuberant.  It is not a mourning of lost loved ones, but a celebration, a reunion with the dead.”

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Santa María de Guadalupe — Our Lady of Guadalupe

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Nuestra Señora de la Solidad — Our Lady of Solitude

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Inmaculada Concepción de Juquila — Virgin of Juquila

For more of these sand paintings, check out the recent post by blogger buddy Chris.  By the way, the feast days for these last three señoras are coming up in December.  First on the calendar is Juquila on December 8, then comes Guadalupe on December 12,  and, finally, Oaxaca’s patron saint, Soledad on December 18.  There will be special masses, processions, and rockets. December is a noisy month!

But first, we must welcome the difuntos (departed) who begin arriving tonight.

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Last night, throughout the streets of the city, the living began welcoming the dead.

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Like the Guelaguetza desfile of delegations, Oaxaqueños and tourists (foreign and domestic) crowded the sidewalks along the Magna Comparsa Oaxaca 2017 route — from the Cruz de Piedra, down García Vigil, left on Allende, right on Macedonio Alcalá, right on Independencia, and into the Alameda.

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With bands leading the way, catrinas in regional dress and dancers in traditional muerteada attire whirled and twirled, high-stepped and jumped, and moved and grooved their way through the streets.

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With earthquakes and hurricanes and now the resumption of the zócalo plantón (occupation) and bloqueos (blocades) of roads into and out of the city by Sección XXII of the teachers’ union and their allies, Oaxaca and Oaxaqueños needed to party-down in joyous abandon — and they did!

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Día de Muertos observances are different in the indigenous villages — the mood is more formal and each village has customs and rituals that tradition dictates must be followed.  But the bottom line in ciudad and pueblo is to provide a welcome worthy of both the living and the dead.  The celebrations have only just begun…

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Calacas dressed for work and catrinas dressed to the nines, for my skeleton-loving grandson.

From the sidewalks, courtyards, and balconies of Oaxaca, October 2017 — ready for the Day of the Dead.

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Día de Muertos is coming…

That means the departed will soon return to eat, drink, and be merry with their living loved ones.

Due to earthquake damage the Panteón General in the city is closed, but the traditional evening of the dead will take place at the Panteón Xochimilco.

As the schedule of over 100 cultural activities (between October 28 and November 4) states, despite earthquakes and hurricanes, “Oaxaca is more alive than ever!”

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One of the great things about having friends come to visit, is going places and doing things not on the usual agenda.  Thus, last week, while accompanying my friend B on a private tour of sights outside Oaxaca city, the guide asked if we knew about the Muertos murals in Villa de Zaachila and would we like to see them.  Absolutely, we said!

In late October, prior to Día de Muertos, young artists are invited to paint Day of the Dead related murals on the walls of Calle Coquiza, the street that connects the church, Santa María Natividad, to the municipal cemetery.  Customs, beliefs, and legends provide the inspiration, as well as day-to-day activities.

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Flor de Piña dancers welcome residents and visitors to step through the doorway to the land beyond.

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Where electric meters serve as faces.

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And, telephone poles add a third dimension to the design.

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Painted pitchers and candles nestle in vegetation escaping from under a portón.

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And, a dancer frolics in sand waiting to be mixed into concrete for construction next door.

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Skeletons use an electric meter to get a leg up in climbing the conduit.

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Trees provide shade, as Pan de Muertos is baked in an outdoor oven.

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Leaves flutter above, as Bu’pu del Valle (chocolate atole) is frothed with a molinillo before being served in traditional hand-painted jicaras.

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Flowers tumble over the wall to adorn a catrina portrait’s hat.

The murals along the walls of Calle Coquiza remain throughout the year — until replaced by the next Día de Muertos artists’ offerings.  In addition, during Day of the Dead, this Calzada de los Muertos (Road of the Dead) is paved with sand paintings.  It is definitely going on my Muertos “must see” itinerary.

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Celebrations in Oaxaca surrounding Día de Muertos are beginning.  This past week, we, members of the Mexico Travel Photography Facebook group, were issued a 5-day “Day of the Dead” photo challenge by moderator, Norma Schafer.  There are always so many favorite images from so many events that I never get around to posting, so this was my opportunity.  My five…

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Panteón, Santa María Atzompa, Oaxaca on Oct. 31, 2015

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Offering on tomb in Panteón Municipal de Tlacolula de Matamoros, Oaxaca on Nov. 1, 2015

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Muerteada, morning after the night before, Nov. 2, 2014, San Agustín Etla, Oaxaca

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Sun sets on Santa María Atzompa panteón, Oct. 31, 2014

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On the Alcalá in Oaxaca City, Oct. 31, 2014

And, five more, just because…

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Santa María Atzompa, Oct. 31, 2015

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San Pablo Villa de Mitla, ofrenda with pan de muertos, Nov. 1, 2014

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Chocolate calaveras at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Cempasuchil (marigold) vendor at Villa de Etla, Oct. 31, 2014

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Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca, Oct. 31, 2015

That’s all folks, for now.  Stay tuned for more to come from this year.

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Dressed in their best festival finery…

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The Catrinas have begun arriving in town…

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You see them loitering on street corners…

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Hanging out on balconies (I think she’s in drag)…

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All the better to see and be seen.

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However, in the end, no matter how fancy their finery and glittery their jewels, as José Guadalupe Posada wrote,

La muerte es democrática, ya que a fin de cuentas, güera, morena, rica o pobre, toda la gente acaba siendo calavera 

(Death is democratic, because after all, light-skin, brown, rich or poor, everyone ends up being a skull)

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