Having lived in Oaxaca for more than three years, I'm starting to get a handle on Dia De Muertos.
It all starts with slightly officious, yet gratifyingly down to earth celebrations at schools and places like the Biblioteca Infantil, the Children's Library, where we saw a kid's movie workshop project that my son acted in, and a tight brass band playing Oaxacan classics and some smooth, upbeat jazz.
By October 31, it was on to the Panteon Xoxochitlan for the annual parade of revelers through the graveyard, with an outstanding selection of artisan wares available outside, and best of all, street food from well stocked puestos.
We had mushroom embanadas, adorned with everything from squash flowers to quesillo. Super fresh, piping hot with insanely great hot salsa and tomatillo salsa, your choice. Um, the graveyard is interesting too.
After these few years, I've come to understand that November 1 is the night to indulge in Comparsas, a combo costume parade, neighborhood outdoor movable feast, dance party and more with brass bands. Think Fellini movie come to life, and your getting close.
My family was invited to the Comparsa in Nazareno Etla, a town about ten miles northwest of Oaxaca. These folks organize the best Comparsa I've been too, with residents setting up a route that winds through town, stopping here and there for music, food and revelry. The costumes, amazing. There are groups of 3 to 10 people in the same superb home made costumes who have clearly been working and thinking all year about it. They surely have little costume clubs! Lots of the macabre, but really anything goes. Peacock boys to Wild Man warriors in feathered head dresses and gold body paint, you name it. Of course, lots of attempts at being sexy, some successful, some outlandish and hilarious.
Just got back from a visit to the Panteon San Felipe on the last night of the holiday. A warm, intimate scene of families camping at the gravesites of their loved ones, adorned with orange marigolds and red Flores de Muertos. Candles, picnics and mezcal in abundance, with roving musicians. Folks inviting their dear departed to come and sit with them for the night, it's that simple, and that deep just the same.
Here's just a few pics. I'll try to remember to post more!