There are still spots remaining on this year’s annual Day of the Dead trip to Oaxaca, Mexico!  Join us from October 28th to November 5th, 2023 to experience one of the most renown Day of the Dead celebrations in the Americas.

Curious about what you might experience?  Here are some thoughts from a past participant, Catherine Suarez, a Spanish Instructor at Las Positas College in California who traveled with Global Exchange to Oaxaca. 


Our trip with Global Exchange to Oaxaca, Mexico was more than a typical educational opportunity. The participants were able to actively participate in many authentic aspects of everyday Oaxacan life associated with the preparation for the Days of the Dead. In addition, the group experienced social processes and was able to participate in meetings and workshops about sustainability, indigenous people’s human rights and the historical importance of corn in the Valley of Oaxaca.

Our group leader, Juan de Dios Gómez Ramírez, a Doctor of Sociology, provided us with much more than the basic information about the Valley of Oaxaca, its people and their social struggles. The level of information and the way in which it was delivered resembled a college-level course. I purchased a notebook in the Mexico City airport “in case I needed to take a few notes”. By the end of the study/travel program, I had completely filled the notebook with information that I cannot wait to incorporate into my lessons and future presentations.

We met with several authors and also attended a week-long Book Fair in the Zocalo where we were able to take part in workshops, presentations by authors from different states of Mexico, Cuba and South America, and search for rare and difficult-to-find books. For example, I have been researching Afro Caribbean Peoples, including Afro Cubans, Afro Puerto Ricans, Afro Dominicans and Afro Mexicans. I was able to purchase several books about Afro Cubans and Afro Mexicans at the fair. The Book Fair was dedicated to the memories of Mexican author José Agustín and Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.

At around midnight on November 1st, while we were in the cemetery, one observer commented that he “will never view death the same way again.” I think that he spoke for many of the people in the cemetery that night. If I could edit his quote, I would add that our group will “never think about human rights and the importance of sustainability, especially corn, for the people of the state of Oaxaca the same way again.”

diadelosmuertosskeletonsThe following blog is adapted from an article which appears in our 2013 25th Anniversary print newsletter. Become a member of Global Exchange and have articles like these delivered to your mailbox!

On October 30th a group of Reality Tours participants will travel with Global Exchange to Oaxaca Mexico to celebrate Day of the Dead and Global Exchange’s 25th anniversary. You could be one of them!

Oaxaca is one of the earth’s most beautiful places. Its lush mountains, high arid plains and dramatic Pacific coast are home to a vivid cultural mix. In addition to Spanish, Oaxaca’s people speak 16 other languages and 154 dialects.

Oaxaca is known worldwide for its stunning legacy of pre-Colombian architecture, such as the dramatic Monte Albán ruins. It is also home to continuing traditions such as the mid-summer Guelaguetza celebration and the stunning Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) ceremony, held in early November to honor all those who have walked the earth before us.

Photo credit: John Gibler

Photo credit: John Gibler

But Oaxaca is much more. It is also a battle ground for the future of Mexico. Oaxaca’s farmers suffered great damage from the market disruptions undemocratically imposed by the North American Free Trade Agreement. Out-migration by those unable to survive on traditional farming has reached epidemic proportions; impoverishing and tearing communities apart. Repression, electoral fraud and bad government have been persistent.

Resistance has also been fierce. In the 1990’s guerrilla movements arose in the Southern Sierra and in 2006, government repression of school teachers sparked one of the longest general strikes in the history of our continent. Protestors occupied government offices and took over key radio and television stations. They stood their ground, even when attacked by paramilitary death squads. The uprising ended only when crushed by massive Federal intervention.

Over the last twenty years Global Exchange has stood with Oaxaca’s people. In the 1990s we organized electoral and human rights observation delegations to the state, sometimes in remote communities under siege by state controlled paramilitaries. We reported from the ground throughout the popular rebellion of 2006.

oaxaca_flowers_450pxThis delegation will visit ruins, mezcal factories, artisan’s workshops, and will meet with indigenous leaders and social organizations. We will meet with women who are at the forefront of organizing community struggles to fight repression, sustain their livelihoods and defend their languages and culture.

We will also, of course, take part in the Day of the Dead celebration, a family event to remember departed souls and to celebrate the resurrection of their spirits. You can welcome back your loved ones as well amidst the marigold flowers, sugar skulls, painted faces, colorful parades, live music, and traditional dances.

GX.DiaDeLosMuertos25thLogo_colorTake Action!

Celebrate Day of the Dead in Oaxaca with Global Exchange

When: October 30 – November 6, 2013
Price: $1375
Special rates! Senior citizen and students price: $1250
Global Exchange members and past Reality Tour travelers: $1375 plus a special Fair Trade Day of the Dead gift 🙂

Photo Credit: Maya Traditions

Today is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a holiday focused on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember those who have died.

In honor of Day of the Dead, we here at Global Exchange wish to remember our friend and ally Jane Mintz. Earlier this year, Jane received the award for Outstanding Service to the Fair Trade Community post mortem from the Fair Trade Federation, “in memory of Jane’s boundless commitment to changing the lives of women in Guatemala through the preservation of traditional weaving and the expansion of economic opportunities.”

Jane founded Maya Traditions, a Fair Trade wholesale business marketing Guatemalan handicrafts and legal foundation providing social services including women’s empowerment programs, health programs, and educational scholarships for their children.

Throughout the years, Global Exchange and Maya Traditions have worked side by side in the Fair Trade movement. Global Exchange Reality Tours participants have visited Maya Traditions weavers in Guatemala and our Fair Trade Stores proudly offer Maya Traditions products.

Jane with Medea Benjamin at a Global Exchange Store Event

Global Exchange Executive Director Kirsten Moller shared these thoughts about Jane:

When I think of community, I think of Jane Mintz –a deeply committed member of her community in Guatemala and in Noe Valley (a San Francisco neighborhood).

Jane was born with enough resources to be comfortable but she chose to commit them to her community, seeing education, health and fellowship over time to be her gift to give and Fair Trade to be the way she could keep it going.

She always had time to talk, to smile and to hear how you were and those exchanges were the currency, the investment that created real and long lasting community.

Photo Credit: Maya Traditions

You can find out more about Jane’s contributions here. For more about Dia de los Muertos and how to create your own altar, read the post Dia de los Muertos.

Jane Mintz, 1943-2009

Who are you remembering today?

November 2nd marks Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a 3000 year old ritual honoring and celebrating friends and family members who have died. San Francisco’s Mission district is the center of festivities in the Bay Area; the annual parade starts today at sundown and altar installations in Garfield Park can be seen between 4:30 and 10:30 PM. You can also stop by the Global Exchange Store in San Francisco (map) for everything you need to make your own altar!

Over 500 years ago, when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in Mexico, they witnessed a ritual they believed to be sacrilegious and barbaric. The Spanish thought the indigenous people were mocking death and attempted to unsuccessfully abolish the ritual. The Spanish saw death as the end of life, while the Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations believed death was a continuation of life; death was not considered to be a separate entity.

The Spanish eventually realized that this native ritual was not going to die, so they “Christianized” it, moving the ritual to coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (November 1st and 2nd). Presently, the festival is not only celebrated all over Mexico, Central and South America, but also in all major cities in the U.S.

San Francisco celebrates Dia de los Muertos with a procession in the Mission District and altar installations in Garfield Park. You can find the procession route, hours of the ceremonies, and directions to Garfield Park here.

Making your own altar is another way to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Stop by the Global Exchange Store in San Francisco (map) for everything you need to Fair Trade your altar. We have everything from locally produced sugar skulls, to handmade skeleton figurines from Mexico and Peru, to sterling silver milagros.

Dia de los Muertos can teach us all something about living. While the Spanish Conquistadors once believed the ritual mocked death, the festival actually celebrates death as a part of life. The message is universal and unifying, and has inspired me to end this post with the words of Lebanese poet, Kahlil Gibran:

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet