It is a beloved time of year in Mexico, bringing families together, and whole communities. Dia de Muertos, in English means “day of the dead.” It might sound macabre but it is not. It is when death and life meet in celebration. A time when departed souls are honored and called to return for a visit “home” to loved ones left behind. A time for happiness.
Like most of Mexico, we made an ofrenda for our home. It is an altar to honor and commemorate our relatives and friends that have passed away⏤hoping that by honoring them in this way, they will come back to us and visit. We decorate with fine cloth, offering fancy breads, flowers, artwork, photos and objects signifying the passions of those remembered.
Oaxaca, in the south central mountains of Mexico is an epicenter for Dia de Muertos during the special days between October 31 - November 2 when it is celebrated. Hotels are all booked solid well in advance as tourists from all over the world descend upon the city. This year, Amy and I hosted a group of tourists from the USA at our home in San Pedro Ixtlahuaca, a village on the outskirts of town. They came to meet us⏤two famous artists living the authentic Mexican life. Our friendly neighbors made a traditional lunch.
The next afternoon of November 1, we arrived in Centro and quickly found a couple just setting up to paint faces. We looked at their samples. Amy chose a style, as did I, and we both sat amidst the crowds and had our faces painted.
Each day Amy and I went to town to wander among the crowds and relish the atmosphere. I am a photographer as well as painter, so took plenty of photos. Everywhere we turned the fantastic sights of people with face paint and sometimes elaborate costumes dazzled us. Street performers and musicians entertained. A sense of excitement and happiness abounded. Especially starting around 4 PM and going into the night.
Yesterday, November 5, Amy and I were driving by our local cemetery in the late afternoon. We stopped to take a look. Nobody was there but a caretaker. The place was awash in flowers that covered all the gravesites. The experience took my breath away. I felt privileged to come in behind all the worshipers who had brought gifts of love for their departed loved ones, then sat and communed with them.
It is what Dia de Muertos is all about.