Arts & Entertainment

Mexican family candle business gears up for Day of the Dead

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes Gomez

Teopisca, Mexico, Oct 28 (EFE).- Several generations of the Ozuna family have spent the past four decades making artisanal candles in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Like every year at this time, that small business located in the town of Nuevo Leon, 30 minutes from the city of Teopisca, is now revving up its operation in response to the increased demand accompanying the Nov. 1-2 Day of the Dead festivities.

“It’s a candle factory, and it’s a family legacy because one of my grandmothers started it. And thank God we’re fulfilling that legacy,” Benigno Fonseca Ozuna told Efe on Thursday.

He said his maternal grandmother initially headed up the operation, which from the start has made candles of different colors and sizes, adding that his mother later took charge before passing the torch to his brother and him.

With the Day of the Dead celebrations fast approaching, the workshop now is working against the clock to meet high demand for artisanal candles at affordable prices.

The work continues apace even though margins are being squeezed due to the high price of paraffin wax and a shortage of beeswax.

Benigno’s wife, Julieta Moreno Cruz, also contributes to the candle-making process, having learned the art form from her mother-in-law and spent the past decade refining her technique.

His son, meanwhile, is still very young but could keep the family business going for at least another generation.

Candles have been used in rituals in that part of the world since the pre-Columbian era and are considered by some to carry the energy that help make wishes come true or to have the power to heal the body of a sick person.

They also are lit in remembrance of the dearly departed.

Socorro Villanueva Martinez, a candle seller at a market in Teopisca, said that for people in that municipality and other small towns in southern Mexico candles hold a lot of religious importance.

“For them, the Mayan culture is focused on spiritual healing. Their ofrendas (Day of the Dead home altars) are to ask for abundance and for (expressing) gratitude. And on these dates thanks is given on behalf of those who have already passed to a better life,” she told Efe.

Four people, all of them family members, work year-round at the business, producing between 1,000 and 3,000 candles per day.

Julieta said it has not been easy to keep the workshop going because prices of raw material like beeswax have climbed as much as three-fold over time.

It is therefore paramount to make the most of the period of highest demand between October and February, when extra workers are brought in to boost output.

“It’s been hard because you need a lot of things. You need money, you need time, patience. Fatigue also is a factor,” Julieta said, who stressed the importance of motivating people to buy locally made products. EFE


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