Dia de los Muertos

With Austin’s growing pool of Día de los Muertos events, the Mexican holiday is observed in Texas’ capital like nowhere else. As the epicenter of all things Día de los Muertos, ubiquitous combinations of parties, processions and vigils will celebrate our heritage and culture from mid-October to the first week of November.

Día de los Muertos is observed locally with activities taking place in cultural centers, parks, museums, music venues, shops, restaurants, schools and other locales. Organizers have prepared a number of festivities in a continued joint effort to promote Día de los Muertos as a signature event.

Austin has embraced the indigenous Mexican holiday in all its rich cultural and artistic traditions since 1984, when Mexic-Arte Museum first marked the day with a community-wide, participatory festival in downtown Austin. Reinterpreting and creating Day of the Dead events has connected the community in the present with long held practices that bring the past to life, making it part of Austin’s present.

This year, Austin Días de los Muertos will blend Halloween merriment with the cultural significance and gravity of Día de los Muertos from Oct. 17-Nov. 7.

About Día de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican and Mexican American holiday now celebrated around the world whose intricate history is intertwined with the history of Mexico and Mexican culture. Practiced on November 1-2, the Day of the Dead is a period during which the graves of loved ones are decorated, special foods like mole and pan de muerto are made, ofrendas are built to honor the dead, and special festivals and processions are held.

The Day of the Dead has its origins in ancient Mesoamerican cultures that blended with those of the Spanish who arrived in Mexico in the early 1500s. During the early 20th century, Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada popularized the skeleton images associated with the holiday by his humorous drawings of calaveras, thereby establishing a uniquely Mexican style of art. Later, the Chicano Movement embraced the Day of the Dead as a way to recover pre-Hispanic and Mexican identities.

November 1, called “Día de los Angelitos” (day of the little angels), is dedicated to the souls of deceased children, while November 2 is set aside for the souls of adults. Before the observances, families may clean their homes to prepare for the arrival of the souls of their loved ones. Many also visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of the dead with their favorite items and flowers. Graves and ofrendas are decorated with papel picado, photographs, cherished objects, marigolds (cempasúchitl), and skeletons made of paper or clay. Food and drink are placed on the ofrendas for the dead. It is believed the dead enjoy the tastes and smells of the food.

Today, the Day of the Dead projects a healthy, humorous, and celebratory view of life and death as unique as the history from which it came. The holiday continues to be celebrated by not only Mexicans and Mexican Americans, but people from Latin America, Europe, the United States and other countries, from Asia to Africa, which have similar traditions of remembering deceased family members.

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