Finding Oaxaca, with Clowns


Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, 2009. So many clowns, so little time.

My college friend Carolyn, with whom I almost got into lots of trouble many moons ago, recently visited Oaxaca for the first time with her husband Tom. She reminded me of the off-the-charts emails that I used to send select friends who I thought wouldn’t freak out and try to airlift me out of Mexico after reading them, which turned out to be a fairly small number. I actually have a whole file of emails and notes marked “Mexico Book Chapters.” Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of how I ended up in Oaxaca:
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Dead Reckoning

November 9 felt like the Day of the Dead, although the real Día de los Muertos had happened the week before. All I’ll say about Election Day is that since I had gone out to a neighboring village to be with my friend Michelle in case I needed moral support, the internet streaming was non-existent and we ended up listening to election coverage on Sirius radio in her parked car. I did need the moral support plus a whole lot of Snickers and some mezcal to make it through the night, but that’s another story for another time.

So through Election Day trauma and even though Mexican Revolution Day and American Thanksgiving have both come and gone, I never had gotten around to really processing this year’s Day of the Dead.

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Death Takes a Holiday

It’s already Revolution Day and I’m still recovering from Day of the Dead festivities November 1-3. For me this year, it encompassed three cemeteries, one featuring a full-blown party with mariachis and another a grave-decorating contest, a belated birthday celebration and guiding an all-day tour to the home a village family to learn about their traditions for the holiday.

The cemetery in San Antonino

The cemetery in San Antonino

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A Day of the Dead to Die For

I didn’t wear my harem costume this year for Day of the Dead; that would have been 2009 when I was still feeling a little let out of school to be living in Mexico. But that three-week trip to Oaxaca for Día de los Muertos was a life-changer. I knew that if this place were this magic despite a missed flight, a grumpy traveling companion and a bout of the swine flu – it must really be special.


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