When we came to Mexico four years ago it was early November and there were still quite a lot of Dia de Muertos decorations around. I was so sad to realise what we had missed and I’ve wanted to come back and experience it ever since. We purposely planned to be in Oaxaca over this time and I’m so glad we did. In all honestly Dia de Muertos was nothing at all like I expected, but more about that later.
We attended a talk by a Canadian anthropologist who’s spent a couple of decades studying Dia de Muertos in Oaxaca, specifically amongst the Zapotec people in the villages surrounding Oaxaca city. He explained that to the Zapotecs, family is the single most important thing in their lives. (He told us that they find the idea of foreigners traveling so far away from their families absolutely incomprehensible!) So the day of the dead is an opportunity for people to reunite with their family, with their loved ones who are no longer with them in this life.
The Zapotec believe that there are two worlds; the living and the dead. The dead world is exactly the same as this one. If you’re a farmer in this life and you live in a little blue house next to a stream, then when you’re dead you’ll be a farmer living in a little blue house next to a stream. The only difference is that you don’t eat (so woman don’t have to cook!) and you don’t have children (so woman don’t have to be p