The Traditional Sand painting
has become a popular way to
decorate the graves in Oaxaca.
The Day of the dead celebration
in Oaxaca is a three-day,
November holiday during which
families clean the graves and
prepare the tombs for the return
of the spirits.
During this time the traditional
flowers decorate the tombs and
home altars but in some
villages the popular decoration
is the sand painting.
Oaxaca offers several styles of decoration and sand painting, one is the tapete of
flowers, (to the left), a painting much like a rug done with flower buds, petals and
whole flowers. These will adorn the tomb or grave site.
The same style or similar could be done with sand and colored powder creating
- Traditional Sand Painting
a sand painting.
Some sand paintings will be flat and called traditional. They will likely incorporate
Other Sand Paintings will be in a three dimensional base relief style. The
tendency now is to create larger and larger sand paintings of three dimensions.
The sand paintings honor either a saint or an important historic figure. Some of
the recent versions have tried to make a political observation.
A visit to the cemeteries near Oaxaca on the first two nights of November can be
a magical time. Thousands of candles and marigold flowers decorate the tombs.
The smell of copal incense and marigold petals, the sight of thousands of
candles, and the lively music of a brass band or the baleful moans of a religious
dirge make the night unique.
The build up to the event can be just as intriguing as the city prepares and turns
several pedestrian-only streets over to artists and students who create sand
painting with an historic or religious theme.
Day of the Dead Sand Paintings
are becoming popular, but flowers still
play the most important part in the
ceremony and the markets are heaped
with marigold and cockscomb, the
flowers with special meaning that the
families will use to decorate their home
altars and tombs.
In the new cemetery of Xoxocotlon, artist Juan Cruz Pascual decorates with a sand
painting that includes Christian motifs. Xoxocotlon celebrates October 31, Evening
Juan Cruz Pascual in the new cemetery of XoXo, just a mile or so from Oaxaca City, prepares his
Traditional sand painting at the grave of his father while a diminutive audience looks on.
Juan's sand paintings have
attracted followers who borrow his
stencils and become students.
Future sand painters look on
Juan, a graphic artist working as an illustrator on archaeological projects, is fluent in English and recently
traveled to the US at the invitation of Texas A&M University to demonstrate the traditional sand painting.
The stencils were passed to Juan from his uncle and remain in the family, He will make new ones as
these become no longer usable and he will pass the new ones along to his family.
The traditional sand painting with a border of flowers and candles. This painting depicts the Virgin
of Soledad, the Patron Saint of Oaxaca.
Sand painting has its risks. Shortly after Juan finished his painting a nest of ants broke through on an
Juan's sand painting uses
the Christian motif.
Others sand paintings
will have a Native
American theme like this
one (right) inspired by the
The latest trend is to
make large sand
paintings. This one below
done at the new museum
in Oaxaca's former
Each village celebrates at different
times and with different styles. The
economy will determine just how
intense the candles and decorations
. Several villages favor the sand
painting or a combination of sand and
The evenings are unique whether the
people decorate with flowers or sand
as families come to the graveyards to
light candles and sit by the grave.
The Day of the Dead fills the
markets with flowers the last
week in October
Styles of Decorations and Sand Paintings
A huge sand painting done on the floor of the new museum in Oaxaca's former Government Offices
Day of the Dead Traditional
Sand Painting by Juan Cruz
Traditional Day of The Dead Sand painting has become
popular in Oaxaca. The sand painting is done with stencils and
colored powder on top of the grave after the family has
cleaned the grave in preparation for the return of the spirits.
See the schedule
Oaxaca Day of the Dead Schedule of Cemetery Visits
Xoxocotlan. This town a few miles southwest of Oaxaca City has two Cemeteries,
Cementario Viejo, and the new cemetery, Cementario Nuevo. Many visitors make this
a crowded cemetery by 10:00 PM
The old cemetery is a magic place, however, when it is lit by thousands of candles.
Traditional sand paintings are popular in the Xoxo cemetery
October 31, the village of Atzompa holds a later cemetery vigil starting around 11 pm.
Music into the night a less crowded event easily reached by taxi.
Day of the Dead November 1
Oaxaca City Cemetery, Panteon General on the east side of the city. Offers displays
and competition of traditional altars (ofrenda) from many ethnic regions of Oaxaca.
Tlalixtac de Cabrera, six miles southeast of Oaxaca City. A lively celebration with brass
bands, strolling guitar groups.
San Felipe del Agua, north of Oaxaca City, November 2, a family cemetery vigil easily
reached by public bus or taxi.
Village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco A flower growing village south of the city of
Oaxaca that celebrates a week after the others
Cemetery Schedule, best times to visit Oaxaca area cemeteries
Day of the Dead Traditional Sand Painting
Day of the Dead Sand Painting
done by artist, Juan Cruz Pascual
|Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico
The Day of the Dead Cemetery visit transportation is available from Oaxaca city by bus, taxi, or car. Cemetery
- Day Of The Dead, Reach the Cemeteries:
visits occur on October 31, at Xoxo,
A public bus to Xoxo runs south on Pino Suarez past the Llano Park. Another bus runs from a station six blocks
south of the Zocalo on avenue Bustamante. This is the Zaachila Bus, it passes Xoxo on its way to Cuilapan and
First time visitors are best off with one of the many Oaxaca Tour Agencies such as Borroco Tours located on
Garcia Vigil (street) They arrange small or large group van and bus tours for visitors to the villages. They
guide you in the cemetery, help you make photos, and provide local information about the event.
Otherwise the best option is taxi, collective taxi, or bus to the village. Arrange for your return or determine the
loading place at the village when you arrive. It could be difficult to find later in the evening.
Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico, Cemetery Visits, Xoxocotlan Transportation
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|Day of The Dead
|Bus To Xoxocotlan
Xoxocotlan is one of
the most popular
village to visit because
it is nearest to Oaxaca
City and because it
The public bus runs to
Xoxo south on Benito
Juarez, past the Llano
Park. The bus is
Another bus runs from
a terminal six bocks
south of the Zocalo on
one block past the
church on your left.
This bus runs to
Zaachila with stops in
Tell the driver you wish
to stop at Xoxo
Buses do not run after