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  • janie cravens

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF DIA de LOS MUERTOS






The high point in a Dia de los Muertos tour chock-full of high points, was a full day spent in a Zapotec home with a village family. The EnVia Foundation arranged this special tour for us, which thoroughly illustrated the love, respect and empowerment that EnVia provides to women. Estella, Edith, Isabel (a niece), Grandmother Juana, and Fernando, Edith’s husband who considers himself lucky to be living with six women (two of whom are his young daughters) all expressed gratitude for EnVia and treated all of us as extended family for the day.


Our group brought traditional gifts for the altar, and we felt so lucky to have this time with the spirits that were there with us this day. We knew that at 3 pm the defuntos would again cross the bridge and leave us, so we took our time with them as the family shared so openly about Dia de los Muertos.


One thing Estella (pictured in the red apron) shared was that the reason there were no photos of her “aunt and mother” was because the loss was recent and pictures made her too sad – it turned out she’d been informally adopted the woman who was “my Aunt-Mother” - and she had died in the pandemic. The family talked about their beliefs and their feelings during this sacred time, amazingly including us, inviting us, allowing us to partake. The only word that approaches how we visitors felt is blessed.

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After the altar observance we had a class on coco-atole, made with fermented white cocoa that’s carefully tended for a month before being used in this celebratory drink.






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Later at the cemetery Fernando reverently walked our group to each family plot (which are not grouped together, but rather by spaces available at the time of death) the last one of which had three bodies in it. His grandfather, his uncle, and his mother. Fernando’s mother (Estella’s Aunt-Mother) died in July 2020. This coupling up of bodies is not common other than in times of great need (such as a pandemic. Fernando told us the rituals involved in disturbing one ancestor to inter another.



The respect, copal burning, and prayers used by these indigenous people to honor their family,

whether living or passed on, opened our hearts yet again.


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Then we returned home to be delighted by a chicken laying an egg in their exquisite, hand dyed yarns, and to eat the Oaxacan tamales we had made earlier.


What a perfect day and what a gift this family gave us to see the real Dia de los Muertos.




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