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Oaxaca, Mexico Day of the Dead Festival & Archaeological Sites

Author: Ralph Koerber
Date of Trip: October 2012

Oaxaca, Mexico is a region and City in the lower portion of Mexico with a teeming tourist trade and a mix of indigenous residents second to none. The Day of the Dead is timed to Halloween in the US and acknowledges death and the return of the deceased as part of the death sequence. Students build altars and sand exhibits in the streets. The festival includes tented areas in streets and parks, rotating portable local markets found in certain areas of the city offering fun, sights, sounds and your choice of food and other delicacies to satisfy every taste. Mole is a 43-ingredient mixture offered with meals. Mole Negro is mild compared to the hotter choices of mole. Restaurants throughout the city are clean and the prices are reasonable including the historic Hotel and Restaurant Camino Real offering a great meal and dancing native to the history of the region. The streets are well-managed and most are one-way traffic for an efficient movement of vehicles in the city. It is important that you are alert to find the one traffic control signal in an intersection so that you are not surprised by traffic upon you. Caution is also encouraged to assure that you avoid the scattered deep holes in the sidewalks.

The infrastructure of the walkable Central City community includes a sentinel police force patrolling all areas to assure safety, clean streets and parks, smiling and welcoming residents, stages and bands appearing in the streets providing wholesome activities and entertainment, a choice of quality hotels, travel agents and service providers prepared to offer tours to the historic ruins dotting the region, magnificent churches, Botanical Gardens.

The Day of the Dead Festival includes visits to five cemeteries from 10 PM to 1 AM. Bring a flashlight to assist your walking in the cemeteries off the lighted sidewalks as there are obstructions to navigate around. Families decorate the graves and many stand nightly vigil during the Festival. The cemetery celebrations include a Symphony Orchestra presentation outside the cemetery in the cool night air. Inside the cemetery are a myriad of candles, flowers, decorations, grave-site bands and gatherings to honor the deceased. Visiting the cemeteries is an experience you will long recall. A day-time cemetery visit will enable you to witness families refreshing the grave site with new floral designs and fresh flowers.

The Cathedral and eleven churches are all within walking distance of Hotel Maela, where we stayed. The hotel,, is recommended for it is located strategically in the Central City, a block away from the most beautiful church of Santo Domingo and a choice of restaurants. Hotel staff includes Miriam, Alfonso and Salomon. Each speaks English and is most helpful. The hotel provides guests with bottled water. Under no circumstances are you to drink tap water. Mexican residents do not drink tap water. Use bottled water to brush teeth. The hotel provides you with a map and guide paper detailing location of the churches, twelve quality museums, ten parks and more.

The archaeological ruins of prior civilizations are within easy day drives and you are recommended to visit these. The culture and atmosphere of the small towns dotting the mountains and valleys outside of Oaxaca will draw you to want to stay there. The services of personable independent tour guides offers you insight into the Zapotec Culture of times past. Eric Ramirez is recommended. He and his team may be found at or phone 044-951-257-7712. You will be pleased at the comfort, depth of information, fun, knowledge and meals provided in local special sites to you each day of varied tours. Eric is of Zapotec blood.

Delta flies to Oaxaca via Mexico City where my flight connected with Aeromexico for a direct flight to Oaxaca. The other choice is a flight from Houston, Texas.

The bottom line is that you will find that investing two weeks of your time to experience Oaxaca, Mexico will pay you lasting dividends in the form of wonderful memories.

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