Indigenous Culture, Oaxaca life

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

Firecrackers from the churchyard hurtle over-head with the intention of scaring away evil spirits while ghosts, ghouls, and devils dance in the streets. The Cathedral is piled high with flowers. Candles burn bright for every prayer and memory of loved ones. Skeletons dangle candidly from second storey windows, and tiny yellow petals are crushed underfoot.


Somewhat ironically, the week of the Day of the Dead is one of the liveliest times in Oaxaca. As a tradition and a festival, it is a favourite for locals and visitors alike. Colourful and vibrant, sombre and sweet; you will find the atmosphere to be unlike any you have ever experienced.



With the belief that the spirits of the deceased return to the living world on the day of the 31st of October and the 1st of November, Oaxaca is completely transformed in anticipation and reception.


From the intimate moments spent gathering and talking by gravesides, or around family altars, to the boisterous parades accompanied by music and mezcal, the people of Oaxaca take this opportunity to embrace all that is life, including the acknowledgement of its end.


It is a time to eat. Giant sweet bread loaves spilled over counters, ready to be dipped in steaming hot chocolate or mole. It is a time to be out on the streets. Dance and theatre performances, art and music appeared in every plaza and corner. It is a time for family and friends. Get into the spirit, invite around everyone you know, and then some, greet neighbours, and embrace your community.  Most importantly, at this time especially, remember that life is to be shared. 

By Kim Groves

1 thought on “Day of the Dead in Oaxaca”

  1. Kim,This is a beautifully written article. Your words painted pictures in my imagination, and those images were enhanced by your lovely photos. I look forward to more of your writings. Are you involved with Fundacion En Via in Oaxaca?

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