We headed to Xoxocotlan Panteon, just outside of Oaxaca, on Wednesday night because we had heard about the thousands of candles and bundles of coxcomb and marigolds decorating the grounds. We had also heard about how families not only come to clean the tombs and welcome the returning dead, but we had heard about how people would be dining and drinking at the tombs. We were under the impression that this was a joyous celebration. However, we came across many people deep in prayer, some crying. It had rained earlier in the day, and the ground was muddy and there were puddles and a mountain of people to navigate. The grief wasn’t exactly shocking, but we felt as if we were intruding.
The center of town had several beautiful altars, stunning artwork and beautiful tapetes de arena. What was most incredible about one of the altars in the square was that it featured live entertainment. There was a woman singing from one side of the altar (as if she had been installed there), and a man would appear and deliver a few calaveritas (short poems).
Just outside of the large cemetery, there was a large orchestra that mainly featured very young players. Sadness seemed to thickened the air.