During Kongo’s week in Oaxaca over the Day of the Dead festival he visited several cemeteries in the city and surrounding villages. In Oaxaca, visiting the grave yard is a happy occasion. Sure there are some somber moments but overall the mood is happy. And the later you stay the happier it gets!
Grave sites are decorated with candles and tons of flowers. October is harvest time in Southern Mexico and flowers are plentiful. Everyone goes to the market in the morning to get a full supply of floral decorations to take to the cemetery.
The photo above shows women at a village market buying flowers to decorate graves later in the day.
Some graveyards bring in music bands to play and marigolds are everywhere.
Outside the entrance to the graveyard vendors are ready to supply any last minute essentials that may have been forgotten. And since many people remain at the cemetery all night, food vendors wander through the graves selling food and refreshment.
At first Kongo was worried about intruding on private space. After all, it’s a graveyard and frankly the graves are so close together that it is difficult to walk about without accidentally stepping on one. But Kongo found that the people were happy to welcome visitors. One group Kongo met included a mother and two daughters. A picture of the husband and father was on the grave and they were opening bottles of his favorite drinks, taking a shot, and leaving the bottle on the grave. In between shots they would tell stories, occasionally wiping a tear from their eye, but mostly laughing at the good memories. Kongo was happy to see that departed Juan enjoyed Gray Goose vodka!
By late in the evening everyone is having a good time. They’re singing songs, swaying back and forth, and toasting each other and the departed loved ones. Actually, they’re fairly tipsy. It’s all part of the celebration.
Kongo couldn’t really figure this one out. The beer he understood but the Barbie doll?
Elaborate sand paintings are part of the celebrations. The paintings were not only frequently on the graves but on the streets leading to the cemetery. Indeed, most of the graves had a flat, table-like platform over the grave where sand paintings could be made.
The cemeteries get progressively more crowded as the night wears on so it’s a good idea to get there early. Also, Kongo thought it would be bad form to use a flash so he took all his pictures using available light.
Travel safe. Have fun!
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