Kongo took the redeye to Oaxaca City (pronounced wa-HAH-ka) last night to this beautiful southwestern part of Mexico after connecting through Mexico City. He arrived about 8 in the morning and since his hotel room wasn’t going to be ready until about 2 PM, it didn’t matter that the monkey had pulled an all-nighter getting here, he was off to check things out. After all, you can sleep when you’re dead — and that’s the point of Oaxaca this week. It’s Day of the Dead time!
Kongo is here to join a week-long photography workshop led by National Geographic photographer Matt Moyer that aims to record the celebration of Dia de Muertros (Day of the Dead). The celebrations actually go on for several days all over Mexico but especially in the southern part of the country in states like Oaxaca. This absolutely macabre holiday celebrates the spirits of beloved ancestors with special meals and festivities to help them along on their spiritual journey. Everybody dresses up in costumes and go to the cemeteries to visit their relatives, make special altars, prepare fabulous meals to nourish their souls, and have a lot of parades. The celebrations coincide with Halloween and All Souls Day. Oaxaca is famous for being a special place to experience this annual festival.
The entire city seems to be dressed up for Dia de Muertos. Everywhere stores, restaurants, balconies, and people are decorated. They really get in to it and it makes for some great photo opportunities.
Besides the Day of the Dead activities, Kongo found the historic center of Oaxaca City a fascinating place to visit. Filled with ancient churches (some go back to the 1500s), shaded squares, cobblestone streets, and pedestrian walkways. Kongo’s hotel is in the center of the historic district only a few short blocks from the gigantic Santo Domingo Square in one direction and the Zocalo in the other. The monkey has a great balcony which looks down directly on the parades and festivities boiling up and down the street.
And speaking of parades … After the poor monkey finally got settled in his room a parade fired up just outside his window. Fortunately, he had the sense to grab his camera, roll out of his nice bed, and keep shooting.
Naturally this parade didn’t go by just once. It went back and forth again and again and again. And again. Accompanied by a band with lots of brass and drums the parade had several hundred people. Some were decked out in their dead garb and others just followed along in everyday street attire. This was a parade everyone could join! Evidently these parades happen all over the city for he next several days.
If you like street photography, Oaxaca is your kind of place. Even with all the visitors with cameras slung about their necks at this time of year, people (for the most part) are pretty agreeable to having tourists snapping away at them with their cameras.
The colors here are fantastic. So is the colonial architecture.
So there are 25 photographers of various skill levels attending this Photo Workshop and they hail from all over the country and the world. It promises to be an exciting week so stay tuned for more details from Oaxaca.
Travel safe. Have fun!