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Posts Tagged ‘Día de Muertos’

Today, November 3, blogger buddy Chris and I made our annual pilgrimage to experience the flowers and families of the panteón in San Antonino Castillo Velasco. We have been doing this for many years and are always surprised and delighted by the creativity of the living, as they decorate the graves of their departed. This year was no exception — especially the sculptures on two of the graves. (Click on image to enlarge.)

Below, the plaque on the simple wooden cross read, 1994 – 2018 Fernando Moctezuma Valencia García “Tachuma” Te amoremos por siempre, tu familia (We love you forever, your family). A little internet research revealed that the young Fernando was already a talented ceramicist.

The hands of a loved one honoring Fernando by creating this exceptional sculpture on his grave, moved me to tears.

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The difuntos have begun arriving and, like every year on November 1, I escape the tourist craziness of the city to spend time in the tranquility of the panteón in Tlacolula de Matamoros. Under the dappled sunlight of early afternoon, families clean, bring flowers, and celebrate. The departed must have nourishment for their travel between the world of the living and dead, thus fruit, nuts, bread, and beverages are placed on the graves.

The difuntos also seem to appreciate artistry.

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Calaveras, calacas, catrins, and catrinas, oh my!  (Click images to enlarge.)

In the city and villages, walls and windows, sitting and standing, happy and sad — they are everywhere in Oaxaca!

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Tonight, the living began welcoming the dead with a Gran Comparsa through the streets of Oaxaca, beginning at Parque Juárez El Llano and ending at the Plaza de la Danza — the latter, almost on my doorstep! Visitors and Oaxaqueños, young and old, lined the parade route in anticipation.

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.

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. Even the dates and times the difuntos arrive to join their living families can differ. However, in both ciudad and pueblo, the goal is to bring together the living and their dead to eat, drink, and reminisce.

After the comparsa passed, I walked around the corner to Casita Colibrí. However, no sooner had I downloaded my photos, the unmistakable sound of fireworks being launched from the Plaza de la Danza called me out onto my terrace. The music and partying continued until 10:30 PM.

The celebrations have only just begun! Click HERE for the very long list of Día de Muertos cultural events in the City of Oaxaca. And, below are some of the activities happening in many of the villages outside the city. (Click on image to enlarge.)

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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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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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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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Poco a poco (little by little) my ofrenda has been constructed and composed.  A yellow (the color of death in prehispanic southern Mexico) cloth covers two chests and papel picado, signifying the union between life and death, has been added.

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Photos of departed loved ones have been placed, along with apples, oranges, and nuts to nourish the difuntos, sal to make sure the souls stay pure, cempasúchitl and veruche (domesticated and wild marigolds) — their scent to guide the spirits, cockscomb to symbolize mourning, the previously mentioned flor de muerto from the mountains above Díaz Ordaz, and copal incense to draw the spirits home and ward off evil.

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Sugar skulls, catrinas, and a few of the favorite things of my parents, grandparents, and in-laws have also been added.  Lest the spirits become thirsty, there is water, mezcal, cervesa, and a bottle of port (for my mom) to drink.

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Last night, the candles and copal incense were lit to guide my loved ones to my Oaxaca home and, just to make sure, I sprinkled some cempasúchitl petals outside to help them find their way.

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It may not be the house where they lived, but I’m hoping they too believe, When you live in your heart, you are always home.

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October 30, 2016, around and about the valley of Oaxaca, preparations were underway for Día de Muertos.  Bread, fruit, chocolate, nuts, and flowers for sale spilled from mercados into the streets; the difuntos must be fed… and only the best!

Our first stop was Villa Díaz Ordaz for their first Expo Festival del Pan de Muerto.  It was day two of the 3-day festival and, of course, we were there early (around noon), but everyone was so warm and welcoming.  Hopefully, it will continue to grow in future years, as this is a sweet village in a picturesque setting at the base of the mountains.

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In Díaz Ordaz, they call these tiny, spicy-scented, lavender flowers “flor de muerto” and we were informed that they are even more important than cempasuchil (marigolds).

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After buying some surprisingly flavorful (whole grain!) pan de muerto for my ofrenda, we headed off to San Pablo Villa de Mitla.  Mitla has the most beautiful pan de muerto and two years ago we stumbled on their Pan de Muertos festival and competition.  A dazzling display of intricately decorated breads lined the sidewalks under the portales.  Alas, the festival was not continued, as their bread is in such demand, the bakers were too busy to take time out for an expo and competition.  So, like last year, we just enjoyed the sights and aromas of their bustling mercado.

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Have you ever seen so many varieties of bananas???  And, now for the famous  pan de muertos…

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Returning home, I added the bread and flor de muerto to my ofrenda.  Following a siesta, I ventured out into the streets of the city in search of a comparsa.  I never found it, but, as you could see from my previous post, the city was teeming with people and activity.  However, amid the merriment and mayhem, there were scenes of tranquility.

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A catrin ejecutivo?

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The copal incense beckoned the difuntos…  They began arriving this morning, seconds after midnight.

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Beautiful Oaxaca tonight on Macedonio Alcalá…

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In the words of the song, “Oaxaca vives en mí” (Oaxaca, you live in me).

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Marigolds have begun appearing in the city.  The yellow of this flor de muertos (flower of the dead) will help guide the difuntos (deceased) home to feast with their families during the upcoming Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. Known as cempazuchil (also spelled cempasúchitl), flower pots and/or vases of marigolds may find their way onto ofrendas (the offerings on home altars for the difuntos).  Some scatter the petals on their muertos altar, others in a trail leading from the street into the house and up to the ofrenda.

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Next week, seasonal Day of the Dead markets will spring up and shopping will go into high gear.  Needless to say, I will join in buying the traditional fruits, nuts, flowers, and sugar skulls to place on my ofrenda.  And, along with friends, I will pay my respects to the difuntos of friends in Teotitlán del Valle.  It’s a special time of year in Oaxaca.

Once a librarian, always a librarian, thus a few resources about Day of the Dead:

A brief note:  Celebrations vary throughout Mexico and, even in the valley of Oaxaca, traditions differ from village to village, but the above articles will give you a general idea.  You can also click HERE for my Día de Muertos blog posts from previous years.

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Young and old, male and female…

it’s a family affair, labor of love…

as the tombs of San Antonino Castillo Velasco are painstakingly decorated on November 3.

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This Catrina arrived styling and ready to party.

Stylish Catrina posing in front of stone wall

Manicured fingers and toes, flower in her hair, and umbrella drink in hand, all she needs is a guy (or gal).

Seated Catrina in Tehuana traje holding cocktail glass with umbrellas.

Young man beware — she has her eye on you!

Ghoulish Catrina standing next to head shot of handsome young man

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