San Antonio’s ‘Day of the Dead’ Celebration Becomes Largest in the US
By: Laurie Baratti
September 16, 2019
Dating back to the pre-Columbian era, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an important holiday for all who hold Mexican or Central American ancestry. Traditional celebrations involve the creation of elaborate altars, adorned with marigolds, incense, candles, photographs, food and other gifts, laid out for the souls of departed loved ones, who are said to be closest to permeating the veil of the living world during the days of November 1 and 2.
From October 26 through November 3, 2019, the city of San Antonio has scheduled an impressive lineup of events, both large and small in scale—some brand-new this year and others of which date back over four decades—featuring traditional altars, live music, authentic Mexican cuisine and vibrant parades. Many are free to attend, open to the public and family-friendly.
Dia de Muertos (a.k.a. Muertos Fest) (October 26-27): Now in its seventh year, this event has been named one of the ‘Ten Great Day of the Dead Celebrations’ by USA Today and the second-best Dia de Muertos Celebration in the country by Tripping.com. It’s a free, family-friendly event showcasing the largest open altar exhibition in the city, along with live music on two stages, original artwork, a drum and puppet procession, poetry readings and more. This year, it moves its new location at Hemisfair, in the heart of downtown.
Day of the Dead San Antonio (November 1-3): A brand-new celebration taking place in the historic La Villita neighborhood consists of a three-day program, which includes artistic displays, dancing, musical performances, children’s activities, culinary treats, a beer garden, Spirits Bar, educational presentations about the holiday’s historical and cultural importance. Associated events include:
— Catrinas on the River (November 1): This kick-off on the waterways will see the city’s famous river barges dressed up for a floating parade down the River Walk. The procession finishes with a performance of “La Danza de Las Mojigangas” at the Arneson River Theatre.
— Celebrating Life 5K Run-Walk (November 2): Participants can have their faces painted pre-race by a team of ten talented make-up artists, and receive a race kit providing a skeleton t-shirt, water bottle and finisher medal.
Pearl Park (November 1-2): Pearl Park will transform itself into an elaborate homage to Dia de Muertos, with altars throughout the property, a festive procession, live music and kids’ crafts. Hotel Emma and other Pearl-area businesses will participate with their own ornate altars and original programming.
Muertitos Fest (November 1-2): Local, creative youth development organization ‘SAY Sí’ will curate one of the city’s comprehensive Dia de Muertos celebrations. This year’s theme is Mestizo, which will highlight indigenous roots, as well as the unique convergence of cultures, in the region.
Huarache Turbo Night Run (October 26): This 5K fun-run awards a prize for best costume, with a fiesta that kicks off as soon as the last runner crosses the finish line.
The Witte Museum (October 22 – November 16): The museum’s “Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids” exhibition, which investigates the history and origins of the world’s most iconic imaginary creatures, will include a section on ‘Alebrijes’—brightly-colored, Mexican folk-art sculptures of mythical creatures.
Mexicraneos Street (October 15 – November 15): This street-art exhibition in downtown San Antonio will present a series of sculptural skulls, which also serve as traditional elements of any Dia de Muertos observance.