The celebration of the Day of the Dead is one of the most deeply rooted festivals in Tuxtepec, in the mystical State of Oaxaca: the presence of the dearly departed is remembered through scents, colors and flavors.
Altars in Tuxtepec preserve the tradition repeated all over the country, the flor de cempasuchil (marigold flower), which represents the light, similar to the rays of the sun, to attract and guide the souls of the dead; the portrait of the deceased, which suggests the soul that will visit the altar during the night of November 2nd; the candles and votive candles as a sign of mourning, are lined up in the form of a cross, representing the four points of the compass, so that the soul can be oriented and find its way back to his home, in addition to water, salt and incense.
To eat, the people of Tuxtepec offer their deceased Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), mole, tamales, chicken, turkey, fish, bush meat, water, soft drinks, beer, liquor, cigarettes, bananas, sugarcane and fruits.
They traditionally place sugar skulls, with the name of the deceased and the living written on them, on the altar, which are later eaten by relatives or friends; the image of the Souls in Purgatory or of a Saint, to request the departure from purgatory of the soul of the deceased in case it is there, and the Cross of the Earth to remind it of its faith.
However, that which most characterizes the altars in Tuxtepec is its sawdust rugs. With religious, floral and many colored motifs, these rugs are begun days before the feast so that they will be ready for the nights of November 1st and 2nd. Slowly and with pinpoint accuracy, the roses, the saints and the borders take shape and color, and the orange color of the marigold flowers is just one additional color in these rugs.
Be sure not to miss the regional Sawdust Rug contest, which is held each year in the central square of Tuxtepec, attracting people from the surrounding towns.