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Day of the Dead with Oaxaca's Zapotec Communities
The Mesoamerican people left their descendants a different cosmology than the Spanish: a belief that death is essential to the continuity of life and it should not be feared, but celebrated. Join us for a special program to go behind the scenes of the famously celebrated Day of the Dead Festival in Oaxaca, guided by the villagers of the Sierra Norte. Learn to create the pre-Hispanic festival's traditional food and drinks, and construct and decorate the traditional altars used to honor the dead. Join the festivities with the locals: get your face painted, visit the graves and celebrate with the spectacular parades.
Program cost includes: airport transfers, 4 nights hotel in Oaxaca City, 3 nights in the Sierra Norte Cabins, meals as indicated in the itinerary, all activities as listed in the itinerary, English-speaking guides in the city and mountains, round-trip transport between the city and mountains.
DAY 1 - October 27, 2018
Arrive in Oaxaca
Bienvenidos! Plan to arrive by mid-day, or consider coming in one day early on the 26th. Upon arrival, we will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to our hotel in the central area of the city.
At 4:00 pm, take part in a walking tour of the city along the popular pedestrian streets, the main plaza, and markets. Dinner will be at the well-reviewed Las Quince Letras.
DAY 2 - October 28, 2018
Discovering the treasures of the valley
Enjoy breakfast at the hotel, then pack up your bags and get ready for our 9:00am departure. Today, we will visit some of the valley's noteworthy sites, including Santa Maria El Tule to see the famous 2,000 year-old cypress tree which is the world’s largest in diameter. We will also stop off at a mezcal factory to learn about the distilling process. Then we'll traverse the short distance to Teotitlan to learn about the large weaving community in this valley. The colorful textiles are world famous. You will learn about the natural dyes and weaving techniques, and how this art form passes from generation to generation.
In the afternoon, we will drive into the Sierra Norte Mountains to the village of Benito Juarez. Here we will meet Ms. Eli, who will guide us through the farm-to-table experience of creating many of the important dishes placed as offerings on the altars for the Day of the Dead, including moles, tamales and the local hot chocolate. After an afternoon of culture and cooking, you will be brought to your cabins to get checked in and relax. Dinner is in the Stone House.
DAY 3 - October 29, 2018
Trek to Latuvi and Day of the Dead legends
We'll wake early in the fresh mountain air and enjoy breakfast together in the local comedor, an eatery operated by rotating groups of women from the village. Today we'll embark on a beautiful trek through the woods to the village of Latuvi, situated on the side of a mountain with gorgeous views. Our guides are expert naturalists and will share all they know of the local flora and fauna along the way. We'll take a packed lunch to enjoy along the way.
We should arrive to the cabins around mid-afternoon, and we'll get checked in and relax. Later in the afternoon, we'll take part in a serrano bread making workshop with a local family. This bread is used on the altars for the Day of the Dead. It’s also a popular bread to be eaten with hot chocolate and we will all enjoy it when it is ready.
After dinner at the local comedor, community members will share legends around the campfire about the Day of the Dead feasts and celebrations.
DAY 4 - October 30, 2018
Preparing for Dia de los Muertos
We'll enjoy breakfast at 8:00 am at the comedor, and then embark on a lovely walk with a local family to collect flowers. Once we've gathered the flowers, we will join the family in constructing their traditional Day of the Dead alter.
After lunch, we'll visit Dona Martha who will demonstrate the traditional extraction process for the honey water used to make the pulgue and tepache, two of the drinks always shared at these festivals. Then we'll move on to the house of Dona Albina, where anyone who chooses may enjoy a Temazcal. (Traditional steam bath with medicinal plants)
Finally, we'll have dinner at the local comedor and settle in for a great night’s sleep.
DAY 5 - October 31, 2018
Day of the Dead celebrations
After we have breakfast and get packed up, it is time to return to Oaxaca City. Upon arrival, we'll get checked into our hotel. At noon, we will visit Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán to learn about the process of making the sand mats used for the raised crosses. We will return to the hotel and the rest of the day is free for shopping, resting or going out to eat.
At 8:00 pm it's time for the Pantheons - the celebration of the Day of the dead - a wonderfully colorful mix of tradition, magic, cult, party, history and mysticism. This evening you will experience two Pantheons, visiting graves, experiencing the use of copal, and listening to music amidst the processions. This is all part of the celebrations, which honor the deceased. Return to the hotel very late at night.
DAY 6 - November 1, 2018
Exploring Montel Alban / Day of the Dead celebrations
Today we'll sleep in and enjoy breakfast at the hotel. At 9:00 am there will be an optional tour to the ruins of Montel Alban, which was the center of the Zapotec Empire. The ruins are located on top of a mountain in the central valley not far from the city. It’s worth going, but if you are tired, sleep in and relax. As part of the tour we will have lunch at Chirmoleras.
At 3:00 pm it's time to apply the make-up used in the Day of the Dead celebrations. (If participants wish to be made up in the traditional guise, they must let us know by Sept 1st.)
At 6:00 pm we will experience the comparsas at the family home in the neighborhood of Jalatalco, which organizes the Day of the Dead parade. There is a great deal of excitement around the parade, with horns ringing and announcements of the traditional “Muerteada”. Whole villages come out, dressed up in wonderful painted faces and costumes, and parade down the streets with music. We'll enjoy the spectacle, then return to the hotel about 11:00 pm.
DAY 7 - November 2, 2018
The Traditions of Weaving and Mezcal
Today we'll head to the community of Santa Catarina Minas in the central valley to learn about weaving and enjoy a lovely lunch in the home of Maria and her daughter Eva. Maria is a skilled weaver and has won awards for her work, which his unbelievably intricate.
Afterward, the group will drive a short distance to meet Eduardo La Locura, aka ‘the crazy one’, an artisanal mezcal maker. His maguey farm and distillery are run by his family and a posse of locals bent on the hard work of making this ‘whisky of the south’ by hand. Learn the ins and outs from the field, to the mash, to the tasting of this “Drink of the Gods”. This is an incredible look at one of Oaxaca’s most famous exports. You can purchase some to take home as well. We will head back to the city and dinner is on your own.
(You may opt to depart for home on this day and deduct $100 from the trip cost.)
DAY 8 - November 3, 2018
Breakfast at the hotel, followed by transfer to the airport depending on your international departure time.
$2,195 based on double occupancy ($230 sgl. supplement for Oaxaca City only)
8D / 7N
October 27 - November 3, 2018
Oaxaca City - Benito Juarez - Latuvi - Oaxaca City
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