Oaxaca is a place that stands on its own. Always has. Maybe that is why it took so long for the Spanish to conquer them. And they do still get uppity about it every now and then as can be witnessed by the many anti-authoritarian murals, stencils and graffiti that are abundantly sprayed and drawn in this Capital town of the province of Oaxaca at the southern extreme of Mexico. Only the county of Chiapas separates it from Guatemala. It is famous for its art, its cuisine (lots of mole!), its large indigenous population and for being huge fans of the Day of the Dead festivities.
Here the ‘Dia De Los Muertos’ (‘Day Of The Dead’) is a big celebration as you can make out from these photographs I have taken of it. And these decorations are still there from a week after it ended- I missed it by four days. But they still greet the eye everywhere in the city Oaxaca (it is the capital of the state it is in that goes by the same name) and infuses the atmosphere with its joy. And it lives beyond its expiration date in the artwork that Oaxaca’s many artists managed to make famous all over the world. There are dozens of galleries, statues and paintings throughout the town that picture their ‘Dead’ influences with pride and gusto.
People will dress up like well heeled spooks with makeup that would make even Frankenstein look handsome by comparison. It is a good natured festivity with families having picnics at family graves and giving candy to children. In some places parades are held with ghouls and boys taking part in the otherworldish costumes. This festivity has also caught on in America with its large latino population as well.
Authorities are divided as to the origin of the celebration. Some argue it descended to Mexico and other parts of the Latin Americas from the same European sources as Halloween did. Others say it is an old Aztec festival that has been remodeled into a modern form. There is evidence to support both. The custom also varies in form and fantasy from area to area in Mexico.
In Oaxaca the Day of the Dead has become an art form and is found in many of the local artist’s works. Ghoulish but humorous skulls peer back out into the walkers-by from galleries, balconies, painted walls and street corners throughout the city. Skull candy is given to children on the holiday and people will paint themselves up the same way. There is even a contest to make the best ‘bread for the dead’. It is on a par with Halloween only with a more limited range of costuming. But what costuming there is, is done exquisitely.
Take a look for yourself with these photos I took from it.
OK! OK! Yes, I cheated on the last photo!
It is really Edvard Munch’s ‘Scream’ from Norway!
But you have to admit there is a similarity…….