Oaxaca is a worthwhile destination any time of the year, but Day of the Dead is a particularly magical time in this city. Located in southern Mexico, Oaxaca is steeped in rich traditions and Día de Muertos is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.
Oaxacan Day of the Dead celebrations takes place over several days. The main events take place from October 31st to November 2nd, but there are related activities that take place before and after these dates. Different villages have different customs around the celebration, and may observe Day of the Dead on different dates.
Many of the Day of the Dead altars you’ll see in Oaxaca are works of art. Schools and social organizations hold contests for the best altars and some of them are astonishingly intricate and beautiful. You may see paths of cempasuchil petals leading up to altars. These are believed to help the dead to find their way.
Since “Día de Muertos” is such an important celebration for the people of Oaxaca, nearly everyone goes to the market to buy the things they need to make their altar and the special foods that are prepared at this time of year, like chocolate, tamales, and black mole sauce. For a visitor to Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, a trip to a market is essential to see all the items that go into a Day of the Dead altar.
You can visit the 20 de Noviembre market in town, or pay a visit to the Central de Abastos market south of the city center (just beware of the crowds, and don’t get lost – it’s a huge market). A trip out to one of the villages to visit market day around the time of Day of the Dead is always a special experience. The Friday market in Ocotlan is a good choice.