Every fall in Mexico something exciting and different takes place. The seasons begin to change and with that comes a celebration of life and death the likes of which you will never forget. The Dia de Muertos or “Day of the Dead” festival that starts generally on October 31st and carries on into the first few days of November. The festival traces its origins to an Aztec festival used to honor the dead, and today the tradition carries on in a lavish display of costume, shows, food, music, and a non-stop party.
The town of Oaxaca comes alive every fall with the festivities involving the Day of the Dead. Alters are placed up all over the town to honor relatives, families, and schools from villages and towns all over come together to compete for the best alter. Be sure to follow look for the cempasuchil pedals that are laid in a path, it is believed the dead use this to help find their way!
To get the full experience of the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca you really need to hit the local markets. They are a surefire way to get a good taste of the local vibe and you can pick up some tasty food and beverages to help navigate through the endless sea of beautifully created alters. You can visit the 20 de Noviembre market in town, or if you don’t mind paying, stop by the Central de Abastos market south of the city center. Just be aware they will be extremely crowded and it can be easy to get lost in the market. You will want to stock up on supplies like bread and their DELICIOUS hot chocolate native to the town of Oaxaca. Do yourself a favor and slow down and try to take in all that you can in the market before you head back out.
There is more to do than you can even imagine, there are sand art tapestries that will blow your mind. People from all over the country come together to honor their dead with these insanely creative and decorative sand art tapestries, that you simply cannot ignore. They are everywhere and each is as stunning as the next.
‘Mexicans have a sense of humor about death, take part in the fun and excitement as you help them honor their dead during Dia de Muertos’
Each and every day, evening and night while experiencing the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca will be capped off with Comparsas. These are similar to what you would experience say at Carnival, a lot of costumed dancing, music and lots of excited people in the streets joining in, truly a sight to behold.
The celebration will take place all over the sprawling community of Oaxaca. The surrounding towns and villages will be part of the spectacle so it will not be hard to find out where you need to be. If in doubt, ask a local they will be able to help you and will be happy to point you in the right direction.
Oaxaca is a city in Southern Mexico. It is a fairly large town with a lot of smaller surrounding towns and villages. There is plenty of local transportation options, but to be safe it is recommended that you speak with hotel staff about how to get out and about. They will tell you the best routes and trusted taxi services. Walking, of course, is going to be your best bet. Most of the streets will be closed for parades and for people to display alters, sculptures, and various vendors from markets will be present as well.
This is a large city, there are dozens of hotels spread all over and most of them are very affordable. Book well in advance because these are going to fill up fast considering this is the largest celebration in Mexico. Another option is to check into Hostels, but I would recommend this option for people traveling in groups with people you know. Just be aware that this is a major city and you will have no shortage of places to stay as long as you plan in advance.
With everything going on during the Day of the Dead you will be hard-pressed to find time for anything else, however, if you are going to the area you might as well stay a few days and enjoy everything it has to offer. Food, shows, plenty of shopping, and the markets are simply an experience in it of themselves.
The official date for the Dia de Muertos Celebration is November 2nd but festivities begin around October 31st in Oaxaca and cap off on November the 2nd, 2019.
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