The Day of the Dead is the most anticipated celebration in the whole state of Oaxaca – and for me, it’s a deep part of my roots and culture. We are raised in a very cultural environment and that is why from a young age we take part in the holiday. The end of October/start of November is the time of year that gets us closer to our beloved ones that aren’t with us anymore.
Dia de los Muertos is mostly celebrated in the central and southern states. Contrary to what many people think, the northern states don’t really have this tradition. The Day of the Dead begins on the 2nd of November but the celebrations commence weeks before. We visit the cemeteries on the night of the 31st of October. Many people spend the whole night there as that is the time that the spirits come to visit us (according to our beliefs).
Many locals dress up for different events, such as parades, that occur the day before or after Dia de los Muertos. In my case I photograph all of these happenings and, because I’m a photographer, I have to dress up in casual clothes with dark colors to avoid drawing too much attention to myself.
Oaxaca is one of the best places to witness this tradition. We set everything up in the most colorful and decorative way possible. Houses, shops and streets go through a big transformation. Oaxaca is a colorful city on a normal day but during the Day of the Dead it looks extra vibrant.
What the Day of the Dead was Like in Oaxaca in 2022
In 2022, after a couple of tough years having to postpone the event due to the pandemic, the Day of the Dead came back to life with locals and visitors reveling once again in this celebration. The wait was too long which is why this year there were more people than ever celebrating it.
Days before the 2nd of November, we had the chance to visit the markets in order to get all the supplies we needed to create our altars at home and also to prepare ourselves for the concerts, parades and the many other events linked to this festival. So, it’s safe to say that 2022 was a success.
The atmosphere from this year’s Day of the Dead was electrifying. There were brass bands playing music on the streets, colorful decorations, and traditional smells and flavors from the markets lingered out. This created what we like to call “temporada de muertos” (dead season). It might sound simple but at the same time it was a once in a lifetime experience.
Are Tourists Welcome at the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca?
Tourists are welcome at the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca as long as they respect what it means to the people. It’s not to be confused with a type of Mexican Halloween or carnival. This is actually a sacred moment where we have an intimate and private encounter with those who have passed away. If you visit the cemeteries, this advice is of utmost importance.
Remaining quiet and not invasive is the key to feeling welcome with the locals at the cemeteries. The Mexican people love to share their culture with others, as long as people show respect. If you do so, you will notice that your experience at the Day of the Dead will be an authentic one.
Tips for Experiencing this Holiday as a Visitor
The top tip I can give someone who is interested in visiting Oaxaca for the Day of the Dead is to book your stay at least two months in advance. Hotels and airbnbs tend to get booked up quickly. Also, don’t just come on the 2nd of November because the event will almost be finished by then. Instead, arrive on the 30th of October at the latest so you can enjoy most of the activities that are on offer. It will be an experience you never forget.