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.
  • Flowers
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.
  • Traditional Sand Painting
The same style or similar could  be done with sand and colored powder creating a sand painting.
Some sand paintings will be flat and called traditional. They will likely incorporate Christian motifs,
  • Bas Relief Sand Painting
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 unexpected visit.
Juan's sand painting uses the Christian motif.
Others sand paintings   will have a Native American theme like this one (right) inspired by the Mixtec codex.

The latest trend is to make large sand paintings. This one below  done at the new museum in Oaxaca's former Government Offices
Each village celebrates at different times and with different styles.  The economy will determine just how intense the candles and decorations will be.

. Several villages favor the  sand painting or a combination of
sand and flower petals.
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 Pascual
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

October, 31
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
  • Day Of The Dead,  Reach the Cemeteries:  
The Day of the Dead Cemetery visit transportation is available from Oaxaca city by bus, taxi, or car.  Cemetery visits occur on October 31, at Xoxo,
  • Bus to 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 Zaachila.
  • Guided Cemetery Tours
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.
  • Self Guided Tour
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
Day of The Dead
Traditional Sand Painting
Bus To Xoxocotlan

Xoxocotlan is one of
the most popular village
to visit because it is
nearest to Oaxaca City
and because it offers
two cememteries.

The public bus runs
to Xoxo south on
Benito Juarez,
past the Llano Park.
 The bus is marked
Another bus runs
from a terminal
bocks south of the
Zocalo on Avenue
Bustamante, one
block past the church
on your left.  This
bus runs to Zaachila
with stops in
Xoxocotlan and
Tell the driver you
wish to stop at Xoxo
Buses do not run
after 11 pm
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