Dia de muertos – Day of the dead in Oaxaca.
A 3 day celebration for those who have passed. What a fantastic tradition to remember all the great times. And Oaxaca is one of the best places in Mexico to celebrate the Dia de muertos / Day of the dead. The last two years I have visited 3 small towns around Oaxaca City, with 3 totally different experiences.
When is the day of the dead?
The Day of the Dead takes place over 3 days from October 31st to November 2nd. With Oct 31st – All Hallows eve (Halloween), Nov 1st – Dia de Los Innocents (Day of the children) or Dia de Los Angelitos (Day of the little angels) and Nov 2nd – Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the dead)
Many families make altars (pic below) in their homes and businesses. Very nicely decorated with photos of the passed, and with their favourite dishes, food and drinks on the altar.
Where to go for the Day of the dead in Oaxaca.
If you want 3 unique experiences, head to Xoxocotlan 31st Oct, San Agustin Etla 1st Nov and San Felipe del Agua 2nd Nov. You can also go to the Pantheon (cemetery) in Oaxaca City centro on the 1st of Nov. The graves, decorations and candles are incredible. Some of the graves are like small houses. But I would suggest going to San Agustin Etla on the 1st instead of Centro for a truely unique celebration.
Xoxocotlan – 31st of October – Halloween (All Hallows eve)
Xoxocotlan is about 20 minutes south of Oaxaca City. This is the biggest event of the 3 days. Xoxocotlan has 2 cemeteries, an old and a new very close to one another.
At times its hard to believe you’re in a cemetery with a party like feel. But as you wander through and off the main track, it gets a lot quieter as you pass families sharing moments together, some drinking mezcal, eating, playing music, and enjoying their time together.
Make sure when taking photos to ask for permission. Everyone will say yes, but you want to respect the families.
Outside the cemeteries there’s lots of stalls to eat delicious Mexican food.
Catch a taxi for about 80 pesos from Oaxaca City centro.
San Agustin Etla – 1st of November.
Day of the dead in San Agustin Etla is really something else!! There you’ll see lots of people dressed up with mirrors and bells on their costumes dancing, bands, loud music and a real party atmosphere.
They have a performance with the locals dressed up, some men dressed as women, and they make jokes about gossip and rumours about the locals, government, and life in general.
The party starts at about 10pm and goes well into the morning!!
San Agustin Etla is about 50mins from Oaxaca City. You can go solo easy enough by taxi, or there are a few tours leaving from Oaxaca City that will take you there for a few hours.
San Felipe del Agua – 2nd of November -Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the dead)
San Felipe del Agua is a more tranquil way to finish off the the 3 day celebrations. 15 minutes north of Centro, a quick taxi ride to the small cemetery. It’s like a mini version of Xoxocatlan. With decorated graves, some bands, people drinking and reflecting, and a few food stalls out the front. It’s great to visit for a couple hours to finish off the 3 day celebration.
Oaxaca City – Any day.
For days leading up to and during the Day of the dead, wandering the streets of Oaxaca City you will find processions and calendas (walking bands) in many streets in centro. Every day and every night.
The whole City is in party mode with lots of singing and dancing for a week and with lots of events happening every day in the streets of the city and in the surrounding towns.
So come and enjoy the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca. A fantastic cultural experience and a week long party and activities. This festival is another reason why I love Mexico so much.