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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Los Días de Los Muertos en Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico 2011 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Los Días de Los Muertos en Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico 2011

It seems unbelievable that it's been twenty years since I first went to Oaxaca to take in the sights, smells and sounds of Los Días de los Muertos. Much has changed since that time. I hadn't been here since 2000 for this festive celebration of welcoming back the dearly departed. It had become so commercial in many of the towns that I visited. I usually saw more tourists in the cemeteries than the local people. I didn't want to return as it appeared that the spirituality of these two special days were being overtaken with tourists thinking it was trendy to go to Oaxaca for Day of the Dead. However, I realized that there was one village that I did want to document, Teotitlán del Valle.

This Zapotec village is one of my favorite places to visit in Oaxaca because of their rich, cultural heritage. There is so much heart and soul to be found here. The people are amazingly open and friendly to visitors from the outside. I spent the majority of my time here documenting the activities that are involved in preparing to welcome back the souls. Much of the preparation is making the comida (food) for the dead. I witnessed women making tejate, atole, hot chocolate, mole and tamales. There is a market every day in Teotiltan. On October 31st the market was bustling with people buying pan de muerto, fruit, nuts, flowers, clayudas, candles, mole and sugar cane stock to decorate their altars.

At 3:00 PM on November 1st a blast of fireworks were shot off and the church bells began to ring announcing the arrival of the souls. The bells continued to ring non-stop until 3:00 PM the next day when the souls departed. Another blast of fireworks exploded to send them off until they return the following year.

On the evening of November 1st families go from home to home where they are invited guests in the homes of their friends. All the front doors of the homes in the village are left open. Guests are welcomed into the room that holds the family's altar. They sit at a dining room table in front of the altar. Guests are offered hot chocolate, pan de muerto, tamales, soup, clayudas, mezcal or beer. The guests in most cases bring pan de muerto and flowers to add to the altar along with a candle. The candle is lit and placed in front of the altar. The candle lights the altar and helps in guiding the souls back to the home. This is a happy occasion as everyone seems to reminiscence about times in the past about individuals who are no longer alive. After this the guests are given fruit, nuts and chocolate to take with them in a colorful, embroidered square cotton cloth that is tied into a bundle and placed in a basket.

A final comida is prepared for the souls before they leave in the afternoon of November 2nd. This comida is only with the immediate family, whereas the comida from the night before is shared with all visitors to the home.

After 3:00 PM on the afternoon of November 2nd the villagers then go to the panteon (cemetery) were they spend more time with their family members. The little panteon was bustling with activity. There is a small capilla (chapel) inside the cemetery that had an altar set up with old santos. On either side of the altar were cantadores (men who sing religious music a cappella) sitting on benches. The acoustics inside the capilla were unbelievable and the music was unworldly. It was a sad lament full of soulfulness and desire. I don't think I had ever heard anything so wonderful in all of my life. Outside in the panteon one of the local bands played waltzes, polkas and other European style music. A mariachi band also wove its way in and out of tombs serenading the dead with it's favorite tunes.

I felt extremely fortunate to witness such an exceptional and beautiful time in this magical village which holds a special place in my heart and soul.
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Altar in the home of Juan Carlos
Altar in the home of Juan Carlos
In front of the altar
In front of the altar
Lady holding clayuda
Lady holding clayuda
Antonieta making tejate
Antonieta making tejate
Morning Greeting
Morning Greeting
Bread for sale
Bread for sale
Bagging the mole
Bagging the mole
Flowers for the altar
Flowers for the altar
Pan dulce
Pan dulce
Buying sugar cane
Buying sugar cane
Flower Vendor
Flower Vendor
Buying pan de muerto
Buying pan de muerto
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