To spend the holiday period of Día de Muertos in Oaxaca is a sensory experience of grand proportions–an abundance of visual, edible and audible impressions. Vibrant colors, sounds and aromas imbue the city and surrounding communities with a magical energy. Cempasúchil (marigolds) and a rainbow of other flowers decorate the panteóns and alters of private homes. Various fruits and nisperos (loquats) create baroque displays as offerings to the departed. The cultural customs involved in the preparation and welcoming of passed loved ones during this time exposed me to an entirely new perspective in honoring the death of my loved ones, and in facing my own mortality.
On November 1st, the first day of the holiday period, I joined Fundación En Vía on one of their special tours to document a family of supported women in the community of San Miguel Del Valle. It was a honor to join mother and daughter, Claudia and Christina, to the Panténon General to adorn the tombs of their passed loved ones with flowers and fruits. We then joined them in their home to see the cornucopia of offerings in their elaborate altar display, and share homemade pan de muerto y chocolate. And I have to comment–it was the best hot chocolate I have ever enjoyed. Claudia roasts her own cacao beans on an open fire comal before grinding the beans, which gives the chocolate an incredible smoky flavor. She mixes in cinnamon and panella (regional sugar cane, amber in color) to sweeten the chocolate before it cools in small discs. The chocolate discs are then melted in boiling water, and whisked with a molinillo until frothy for the most delicious cup of hot coco–truly, it was superb!!
Copal filled the air at the strike of noon to welcome the departed spirits back into Claudia's home. Shortly thereafter a few mandarines fell from the altar, which Claudia expressed was a sign the departed guests had arrived. They would stay until November 3rd when their visit would conclude until next year. Enjoy a handful of the many impressions from this enlivening celebration in remembrance and honor of the departed. I encourage everyone to experience Día de Muertos in this magical state if you haven't had the joy already. It is a great season to be in Oaxaca.
photos: Katrina Jane Perry