The Healing and Life-Affirming Experience of
Curanderismo and Day of the Dead Celebration
in Oaxaca, Mexico
October 28-November 5, 2023
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: 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.
Our Tour Schedule:
October 28. Arrive in Oaxaca City Airport. Evening orientation and welcome dinner including the ancient beverage, pulque. Check into Hotel Gala where we will stay throughout the tour.
October 29. Breakfast at Butler Restaurant. Travel to Yagul for welcoming ceremony. Tour Yagul’s splendid set of ruins that houses the largest, most important ball game court in Oaxaca. Yagul was occupied from around 500 BC till the 1520’s when Yagul’s residents were forced out by the Spanish conquistadores and settled nearby, in what is now Tlacolula. Yagul consists of three main sections; a residential area, a ceremonial area, and a fortress from which it is possible to get a good view of the Yagul ruins and the valley. The ceremonial area houses the ball game court, the palace, the patios, and other structures. Travel to the pueblo of Mitla to have lunch. Go on to the Mitla Caves. A hike takes us through desert cactus and brush to a series of caves that we enter to admire ancient cave paintings. This is the birthplace of corn as evidenced in cave paintings and ancient corn grinders. These caves are also considered the entrance to Mictlan or the land of the dead.
October 30. Breakfast at Terranova Restaurant. Presentation on the ancient calendrical system of the Mexica (Aztecs). Receive an individual calendar calendar reading that reveals your tonal name and the meaning associated with it based on your date of birth. Lunch on your own. Peruse the Sanchez Pascuas Market as we pick up the flowers, candles, fruits, breads and everything needed to create our offerings for the Dia de los Muertos celebration. Together, we build an altar with offerings for our ancestors who have departed this world. (For this, please bring with you photos or small objects that belonged to your departed loved ones).
October 31. Breakfast at Terranova Restaurant. Presentation on Mictlan, the place of the dead. Learn about the journey the spirit takes after death to the various levels of the Underworld. Discover the various customs and traditions associated with the dead. Lunch on your own. Free afternoon to wander the Zocalo in the heart of Oaxaca City where you’ll find shops and folk art galleries, restaurants and the local market. At night visit Atzompa Cemetery for their Fiesta de Muertos and then on to Xoxo Cemetery, one of the most famous places to celebrate Day of the Dead. Experience the party of the dead, where the living go to the cemetery to put out candles, food, offerings, flowers, and mezcal. They sing to the departed, pray for them, and make a party during this celebration of death. Join in the music and celebrations where we are joined by the spirits of the dead.
November 1. Breakfast at Terranova Restaurant on the Zocalo. 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). Meet with make-up artists who (optionally) paint your face with traditional designs associated with death and the Dia de los Muertos celebration. Lunch at Hidalgo Restaurant. Afternoon free to tour the exhibition of altars all over the heart of Oaxaca City. Enjoy all the fireworks, sand art, costumes, dancing in the streets, skeletons, skulls and religious images that honor the dead. Dinner on your own.
November 2. Breakfast at El Tule Restaurant. Travel to Teotitlan. Visit Casa de las Velas to observe the crafting of the elaborate handcrafted candles and candle sculptures used throughout the area in ceremonies. Observe pueblo festivities associated with Dia de los Muertos. Visit downtown Teotitlan to observe the production of and learn the background on the fine wool weavings known as tapetes. Group lunch at local restaurant. At night, visit the pueblo’s cemetery.
November 3. Breakfast at Butler Restaurant. Travel to San Martin Tilcajete to observe how alebrijes are made. San Martin Tilcajete is an artisan community known for its alebrijes, death figures (and additional other-worldly figures) hand-carved from copal wood and painted in bright colors. Peruse the Alebrije Market. Lunch at Almud Restaurant. Travel to Ocotlan de Morelos to meet a famous local blind craftsman who makes beautiful sculptures out of red clay. Enjoy a Guelaguetza dinner where you’ll observe regional folk dances from all over the state of Oaxaca, accompanied by a live band. Eat a dinner of regional dishes.
November 4. Breakfast at Garden Restaurant. Travel to Laurencio’s house (our guide and beloved teacher and friend!). Learn all about cacao: its history, kinds of cacao, chemistry, pharmacology as well as its roasting and grinding. Sample cacao as a beverage in ceremony. Enjoy a home-cooked meal at Laurencio’s house. Experience a temazcal ceremony led by Laurencio (see below for explanation). Light dinner. Cacao ceremony, this time eating raw cacao and embracing its medicine.
November 5. Breakfast and closing at Terranova Restaurant. Travel to Oaxaca City Airport for departures.
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.
9 Nights hotel accommodations (dual occupancy) in Hotel Gala in the heart of the city.
16 Meals: Dinner on October 28th, breakfast and lunch on the 29th, breakfast on the 30th, breakfast on the 31st, breakfast and lunch on November 1st, breakfast and lunch on the 2nd, breakfast, lunch and dinner on the 3rd, breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the 4th, and breakfast on the 5th.
All ground transportation
Entrance fees to sites as described above
Airfare to and from Oaxaca City Airport
Meals besides those specified above
Cost per person, based on double occupancy: $2,200.00. 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 the tour or ask any questions that you may have.
You can secure your spot on the tour with a full payment of $2200. Or you can submit a down payment of $550 and make 3 additional monthly payments of $550 to be paid in full before the tour date.