On the night of October 30, 2014, after a scenic six-and-a-half-hour trip from Mexico City, my bus pulled into the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. At last, after several years of wanting to be here, I was here, and just in time!
In 2008, I sort of fell in love with Oaxaca through seeing it on a television program. The colonial architecture, the people, the many interesting day trips in the surrounding area — Oaxaca had a lot to offer. But it was the images of Día de los Muertos, a holiday honoring the dead and celebrated throughout Mexico, that most captivated me. People seemed to be having a blast, and there were visitors here from around the world as well as Mexico. The atmosphere looked a lot like New Orleans during Mardi Gras but without the boobs and drunkenness and occasional gunfire.
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, has roots going back to the pre-colonial era in southern Mexico, when the dead were buried close to home or even at the home. What we see today is an alignment of this indigenous tradition with the Christian tradition. The dates of its observance — October 31, November 1 and November 2 — coincide with Allhallowtide on the Christian calendar.
Day of the Dead is a chance to see well done costumes, eat sugar skulls, have a drink with Mexicans over a loved one’s grave, and, in general, enjoy the feel of community, even community that reaches back toward those who are no longer living. The celebration is a national holiday in Mexico and, given its role in Mexican culture, was recognized by UNESCO as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” in 2008.
The following photographs are in chronological order, starting the afternoon of October 31 and ending the night of November 1.