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Ann Murdy | profile | all galleries >> Día de los Muertos en Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca 2012 tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Día de los Muertos en Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca 2012

In October and November 2012, I returned to Teotitlán del Valle to continue working on my home altar project. Los Días de los Muertos is the most important celebration in this Zapotec village. For every home that I visited I brought pan de muerto (day of the dead bread) to add to the altar and velas (tapers). Bread is considered to be the staff of life and it provides nourishment for the returning souls. Candles help light the altar and guide the soul home. When I presented the ladies of the home with their pan de muerto they kissed the loaf of bread before they put it on their altar. Tamales are a popular food during this time of year. The tortillas are made by hand and the sauce is made from chiles guajillo, masa, yerba santa and chicken soup. They're wrapped in corn leaves and stuffed with chicken. They are cooked in an olla pot for ten minutes. In each home the ladies were planning on making one hundred tamales. When visitors come to each home they are served a plate of pan de muerto along with a cup of hot chocolate. Mezcal and beer are also popular beverages as well.

There is a daily market in Teotitlán del Valle. On October 31st it was packed as all the ladies were buying their pan de muerto, chocolate, candles, flowers, fruit, mezcal and other items to decorate their altars.

At 3:00 PM on November 1st there was an explosion of fireworks announcing the arrival of the spirits of the dead. For the next twenty-four hours the church bells rang non-stop until 3:00 PM on November 2nd. Afterwards the people went to the panteón (cemetery) to spend time with their family members. This year inside the chapel a special ceremony took place. This ceremony was known as "levantada de la cruz" (raising of the cross). This year there was a sand painting or tapete inside the capilla (chapel). This custom comes from a ceremony known as a novenario (a nine day prayer vigil). Under normal circumstances these sand paintings would only be seen in the privacy of a home. They are created after an individual has died and the body is still inside the house. For nine days after the death the novenario takes place. During this time prayers are said along with a feast where food and alcohol are served. Sometimes a band is hired to play music. After nine days, the padrinos (godfathers) of the departed gather up the sand painting and place it in a container. From here they take the container along with the coffin and place it in the grave of the deceased at the cemetery. This ceremony "the raising of the cross" releases the spirit. The rezadores (men who sing prayers) in Teotiltlán del Valle were in charge of this ceremony in the capilla. There were five numbered sections on this sand painting. The first is the corona or the crown of Christ, the second and third are the arms of Christ, the fourth is his wound and the fifith represents his feet. The rezadores lead the prayers while they selected five people from the local government to sweep up the tapete. The tapete was swept up with corn husks. All of this occurred to the accompaniment of a live band playing a dirge inside the capilla.

All and all, Teotitlán del Valle is a very special place to witness Los Días de los Muertos.
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Enfrente el altar
Enfrente el altar
Detail of Hermelinda's altar
Detail of Hermelinda's altar
Detail of Rosa's altar
Detail of Rosa's altar
Nicolasa and Lorenzo
Nicolasa and Lorenzo
Comida para los muertos
Comida para los muertos
Petra holding pan de muerto
Petra holding pan de muerto
Rosa al lado el altar
Rosa al lado el altar
Felicita con un plato de fruta
Felicita con un plato de fruta
Altar con la  Virgen de la Juquila
Altar con la Virgen de la Juquila
Altar a la casa de Zacarias
Altar a la casa de Zacarias
Detail of altar for angelito
Detail of altar for angelito
Altar a la casa de Felipe
Altar a la casa de Felipe
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