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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Los Días de los Muertos en Oaxaca, Mexico 2013 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Los Días de los Muertos en Oaxaca, Mexico 2013

In October and November 2013 before and after I was documenting home altars in Teotitlán del Valle I was in Oaxaca City taking in all the sights, smells and visual treats of los Días de los Muertos. Oaxaca is colorful anytime of year but it really becomes a vibrant palette during these festive days as altars are abundant, sand paintings seem to appear everywhere, the markets are full of cempasúchil, cresto del gallo, various shapes and designs of pan de muerto, sugar skulls, chunks of chocolate, day of the dead toys, copal, incense burners and sugar cane stock. The smell of the cempasúchil fills the air as one walks through the markets. Comparsas (costumed parades) are a daily activity during this time of year. On October 29th there was a comparsa made up of high school students from various pueblos in Oaxaca competing in a concurso (contest) for the best recyclable costumes. Some of the costumes were made from newspapers, cornhusks, seeds, etc. There were also comparsas with elementary school children who dressed in Halloween costumes and as Calaveras (skeletons).

The dressing up as a calavera comes from the popular skeleton iconography of the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. At the turn of the 19th century Posada's engravings of calaveras were reproduced as broadsheets where they were distributed throughout Mexico City in a similar fashion as the present day comic book. Most of his calaveras were making fun of politicians, religious leaders and people from the upper class during the reign of the Mexican president Porfiro Díaz. Unfortunately for Posada, his humor wasn't appreciated and he was thrown into jail four times. His most famous illustration is the image of "Catrina" a woman from the upper class dressed in the typical clothing from the Belle Époque area. She is seen wearing a huge hat adorned with ostrich feathers with a lace trim around it's brim, a boa around her neck and a long dress. A man from the upper class was known as a "Catrin" who dressed in a silk top hat and tails. Posada was stating through his imagery that no one was spared in death, that all of us no matter what social class we come from we're going to be skeletons when we pass away. Posada influenced some of Mexico's most famous artists such as Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. Rivera was influenced by Posada's work and the struggle of the poor. One of Rivera's most famous paintings "A Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park" has Posada and Catrina in the painting. Posada died penniless in 1913 but today his creation of Catrina has become the icon most associated with Los Días de los Muertos in Mexico.

As visit to the panteón (cemetery) in San Antonino was on the agenda. San Antonino is known for it’s beautiful embroidered blouses that seem to be inspired by the cresta de gallo that is grown in this village. There was a concurso going on for the best decorated grave and the best cresta de gallo. This panteón is a delight to visit because it is so beautifully decorated with all the flowers that grow in this region.

A visit to Oaxaca during this time of year is a delight for all of the senses! Viva Oaxaca!
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La Azteca
La Azteca
Corn Husk Dancers
Corn Husk Dancers
Calavera with bone ribbon
Calavera with bone ribbon
La Banda con un Danzante
La Banda con un Danzante
Calavera Couple
Calavera Couple
Girl dressed as Catrina in Parade
Girl dressed as Catrina in Parade
Dead Calavera with Rat
Dead Calavera with Rat
Corn Husk Catrina
Corn Husk Catrina
Los Aztecas
Los Aztecas
Lady Dressed as Catrina
Lady Dressed as Catrina
Los Borachos
Los Borachos
Calavera Girl with Umbrella
Calavera Girl with Umbrella
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