Day of the Dead Celebration and Curanderismo In Oaxaca, Mexico
The Healing and Life-Affirming Experience of Honoring Death
October 26-November 4, 2018
Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is one of the most unique, intriguing and mysterious holidays on our planet. It’s a way that ancient Mesoamericans celebrated their reunion with departed loved ones here on earth. Still practiced today, it’s a collective healing ceremony to process the grief and loss that follows the death of loved ones in a celebration that includes everything the deceased once enjoyed––traditional foods, drink, colorful decorations, flowers, candles, music and dancing. On Day of the Dead, the departed re-join their family and community, awakened and brought back to earth to share joyous celebrations with their loved ones.
Oaxaca, the state with the highest indigenous population in all of Mexico is the capital of all of the festive and culturally rich Mexican celebrations of Day of the Dead.
Join us for an insider’s perspective on this sacred world-class festival. We will: Cook and sample the traditional foods served on Day of the Dead, decorate altars, explore ancient sites, come to know the pre-hispanic understanding of the relationship between life and death, visit indigenous people in their homes, meet local artisans in small villages, peruse colorful markets, attend costume parades, join families in candle-lit ceremonies as they welcome back their departed relatives, and learn how all of it relates to the traditional Mesoamerican healing system called Curanderismo.
Day by Day Itinerary:
October 26. Arrive in Oaxaca City Airport. Evening orientation and welcoming reception. Check in at Hotel Antequera in Oaxaca City.
October 27. Welcoming and Blessing Ceremony, utilizing flowers, medicinal plants, fruits, seeds, copal and water. Expressing gratitude to the Universe. Travel to the ancient sacred site of Monte Alban, considered one of the most important examples of pre-Columbian art and culture in all of Mexico. It includes pyramids, temples, ball courts and the remains of ancient healing infrastructure including a temazcal, founded in 500 B.C. Archaeological tour including the spirituality of ancient Oaxaca and use of plants found at the site in healing. Learn about their elaborate view of the relationship between the living and the dead. Return to Oaxaca City for an overview of the geography of Oaxaca, areas we will visit, customs, foods, celebrations, traditional dress, crafts, indigenous groups and their languages. Introduction to traditional healing and sacred sites. Overview of the ancient and modern meanings and practices of Day of the Dead.
October 28. In the morning, lecture and discussion on Mictlan, the underworld of the ancient Mexhica (Aztec). Learn about ancient mythology and cosmology, and how it relates to both ancient and modern practices of Day of the Dead. Enjoy presentation by world-renowned Native Mixe artist Rex Reyes Gomez, who will display and explain his prints and paintings on Day of the Dead and other themes (for additional information on his background, paintings and published books, see his website www.rexmexgallery.com.mx). Travel to home of nearby curandero named Albino. He shares a workshop on Temazcal of the Dead. Experience the temazcal, led by Albino. In it, he talks about spirits and the meaning of death, the trip to Mictlan and the great purification needed to meet the Grand Energy. Inside the temazcal we eat chocolate as an offering to the spirits of the temazcal and of the underworld. Enjoy a traditional meal at Albino’s home.
October 29. Travel to Teotitlan, considered the “land of the gods,” as well as a traditional pueblo that has kept many of its traditional ways. Learn about its ancient and modern significance. Visit home of a local family, who share a workshop on preparation of mole, the most important ceremonial food used to celebrate life’s major events from birth to death. Participate in making mole, then share a meal of it with the family. Travel on to San Juan Guelavia. Visit with another family and learn how to make and mix chocolate in the traditional way. Toast cacao and make little balls of water chocolate and milk chocolate. Then drink it along with hand-made bread called pan de muerto (bread of the dead), made for the dead, but the living get to it as “leftovers,” making it a feast for those in both worlds.
October 30. Travel to Mitla, ancient city called the “place of the dead.” Tour ancient ruins and get to know the place where ancient Zapotec people communicated with the dead. Visit market of local artisans. Learn about the production of indigenous clothing, shawls, ceramics, flutes and rattles. On the way back to Oaxaca City, stop at Casa Chagoya, a local mezcal-making operation. This ancient beverage is the drink to have when doing candle prayers for the dead throughout the night during Dia de los Muertos, and is left as an offering to honor the departed. See mezcal being made and sample it.
October 31. Travel to the quaint pueblo of San Jacinto. Join a family in their home in making tamales with beans and mole. We eat some and use some as offerings for the family’s Day of the Dead altar. We place our offerings and photos of our departed loved ones on the family’s home altar. We join the parade of Day of the Dead. Enjoy all the fireworks, sand art, costumes, dancing in the streets, skeletons, skulls and religious images that honor the dead.
November 1. Visit the church of Santo Domingo, and learn how modern day services of the dead are conducted. Go to Panteon general, a mausoleum where above ground burials are done. See the beautiful wall of niches illuminated by candles. Experience the Fiesta de los Muertos, Party of the dead, where the living go to the cemetery to put out candles, food, offerings, flowers, mezcal. They sing to the departed, pray for them, and make a party during this celebration of death. Attend presentation on the sacred Nahuatl (Aztec), Maya and Zapotec calendars, and how their spiritual notion of time informed the ancient Mesoamerican notion of life and death. Optional activity after: receive a reading that includes your traditional name, inner nature and nagual or spirit animal based on your date of birth. Enjoy dinner while watching a performance of spectacular regional traditional dances. Visit the old and magical cemetery at Xoxocotlan, one of the most famous places to celebrate Day of the Dead.
November 2. Travel to Atzompa. Tour the ancient Zapotec ruins. Go to Municipal Cemetery of Atzompa for their Fiesta de Muertos. Travel to San Felipe del Agua cemetery and tombs for their very traditional version of Fiesta de Muertos. Finish the Day of the Dead celebration with more decorated graves, live music and local celebrations.
November 3. Tour the Museum of Anthropology for a fascinating look at ancient objects of burial from sacred sites throughout Oaxaca. Travel to San Martin Tilcajete, an artisan community known for its alebrijes, death figures hand-carved from wood and painted in bright colors. Also black clay ceramics and hand-made figures. Closing ceremony that thanks the Universe for our group being together in living celebration of the relationship between the living and the dead.
November 4.. Breakfast. Farewell discussion. Travel to airport in Oaxaca City for departure.
About the Temazcal
“Temazcal” is a Nahuatl term that means “house of vapor.” It is an ancient pre-Hispanic therapeutic steam bath. Considered the first hospital in indigenous Mexico, it offers benefits to the respiratory, circulatory and digestive systems. It is a place of introspection, tranquility and beauty, utilizing flowers and medicinal herbs. The Temazcal is a relaxing experience that uses heat and steam to heal the mind, body, spirit and emotions.
8 Nights hotel accommodations (dual occupancy) in a highly rated hotel in the heart of the city on the Zocalo (central plaza)
October 26, a light snack at night
6 Meals: Dinner on the 27th; dinner on the 28th; lunch on the 29th; lunch on the 30th, lunch on the 31st; and lunch on the 2nd.
All ground transportation
Entrance fees to sites as described above
Airfare to and from Oaxaca City Airport
Meals beside those specified above
Cost per person, based on double occupancy: $1,650.00.
Single supplement is available for an additional cost. (Please inquire).
About the tour leaders:
Robert Vetter, M.A. Cultural anthropologist, who has owned and operated Journeys Into American Indian Territory since 1987, offering cultural immersion experiences in Native American communities. His programs have been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Child Magazine, McCall’s, NBC’s Today Show, and the Travel Channel’s Globe Trekker series. (See www.indianjourneys.com).
Laurencio Nunez Lopez is a professional biologist from Oaxaca, Mexico. He is also a practicing curandero with over 20 years of experience, who specializes in the use of medicinal plants, the temazcal, spiritual limpias (cleansing ceremonies), healing massage and the relationship between emotions and health.
Please email Robert Vetter at BobV1111@aol.com or call 631-553-7127 to discuss program. A $350 deposit will secure your place for this life-changing experience!
You can mail checks payable to:
Robert Vetter Enterprises, LLC
PO Box 575
Eastport, NY 11941
Or payment can be made by credit card (Visa, Mastercard or American Express)