Each October, to celebrate Day of the Dead hundreds of dancers take over the streets of Huautla de Jiménez. They sing in chorus while they dance to the rhythm of the drums, guitars, and violins- They are the “huehentones,” characters that give life to the S’ui K’ien, or the Mazatec Party of the Dead, in the region of the Cañada Mazateca in Oaxaca.
“Huehuentones” means “ancestors,” and these dancers represent the souls of the departed that come back to spend some days with their loved ones. They wear “sarapes,” hats made of liane with a long point and jonote masks that simulate the face of old men. Traditionally, huehuentones are men, but women participate too.
The Party of the Dead beings on October 27 when the troupes go to the cemetery to ask Chikon nyoa k’en, the underworld’s guardian, for his permission for souls to come back. Since then until November 4, there will be celebrations in Huautla.
By night, huehuentones visit homes and altars to share joy and receive food from the hosts: bitter atole (made with fermented dough), spirits, tezmole (broth with chicken or pork meat) and small tamales.
These foods and drinks are part of the altar. Fruits and religious images are also put on them, but the most distinctive element of altars is the arch made from reed that decorates the table and that is covered with cempasúchil flowers.
In addition, there are vigils at the cemetery between October 31 and November 2.
As a tourist, you have the opportunity to watch the celebration in the streets. However, the easiest thing is to go every night to the fiesta nights in the Identity Square, in downtown, to find many groups of huehuentones and dance with them. These events are organized by the local government. They are complemented with gastronomic and artisanal festivals, in front of the municipal palace.
Source: El Universal