Kongo spent last week in Oaxaca, Mexico participating in a National Geographic Photo Workshop themed after Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead. The monkey’s hotel, the Parado de Alcala was a great little boutique inn with only 21 rooms and suites. Kongo lucked out and got one of the three rooms with a balcony overlooking a pedestrian only street in the center of historic Oaxaca City.
The really cool thing about this balcony room was that the monkey got a better than birds eye view of all the activities going on below. In Oaxaca they ought to rename the festival to Week of the Dead because the celebrations go on for an entire week. A big part of those celebrations are parades where everyone dresses up and marches up and down the street below Kongo’s balcony.
With the streets filled with thousands of celebrants and visitors there is no end to the photo opportunities and Kongo shot a lot of photos. Like thousands. The lighting was sometimes challenging but that was pretty much the point of attending a photo workshop — rise to meet new challenges!
One of the monkey’s favorite images of the whole week is shown above. This eerie scene unfolded right before his eyes and was the culmination of about 30 frames where some guys in skeleton face were playing with fire. They had set up a copper brazier in the middle of the street and were blowing and spraying turpentine (or maybe in was mescal) into the flames to make it flare up. Then the guy above shook a bottle of something flammable onto the fire, there was a big WHOOSH, and I captured the image above. It almost seems as if he is part of the fire. Just to the right of the skeleton face is another image that looks like a face in the flames. Spooky! Since this was Day of the Dead it was almost as if he was conjuring up long departed spirits.
All the parades were led by brass bands. Tubas, horns, drums, and cymbals heralded the processions and these guys seemed to be having as much fun as everyone else. They tended to march up and down the streets several times so these players had to be getting tired by the end of the night.
Not everything was spooky fire and ghouls. There were lots of twirling dancers with baskets on their heads dressed in traditional costumes.
This guy is leading a procession with a spinning sparkler thingy on a stick. Notice all the people in the lower right part of the frame taking pictures. Often people would just merge into the parades and become part of it. Everybody took part. Also, notice the guy in the giant get-up who is peeking out of his costume to check out the activity around him or maybe it was just to see where he was going.
In the middle of the parades fireworks would randomly go off adding additional color and excitement to the scene. The image below shows fireworks going off over Santo Domingo Square.
Everyone loves a parade but in Oaxaca the people really, really love them.
Travel safe. Have fun!