San Antonio’s 2013 Día de los Muertos Celebrations: Something for Everyone

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biopicBoth Halloween and Día de los Muertos recognize a cultural fascination with life, death, afterlife, and the spiritually blurred lines between. While Halloween, a Christian celebration of saints with roots in Celtic and Roman tradition, has been essentially watered down to candy, costume contests and drinking, the Catholic Día de los Muertos celebrations seem to have retained more of the “spirit” of the occasion.

The purpose behind the altar tradition as a way to honor and celebrate a dead loved one, for instance, is far better known than the origins of the jack-o’-lantern. At least in San Antonio. [See event listings below.]

An altar from a 2012 Día de los Muertos celebration. Photo by John Schulze.

An altar from a 2012 Día de los Muertos celebration in San Antonio. Photo by John Schulze.

The city’s long historical and cultural connection to Mexico – and its physical proximity – make San Antonio one the best, most authentic places to celebrate Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Parties and ceremonies ranging from traditional to modern take place throughout the city in community centers, night clubs, public parks, art galleries, and backyards.

“It’s a citywide celebration that has taken different shapes and forms to be more accessible and a participatory celebration,” said Felix Padrón, director of the City’s Department of Culture and Creative Development (DCCD). “It’s really the work of the community.”

Felix Padrón, DCCD director.

Felix Padrón, DCCD director

Centro Cultural Aztlan, Padrón said, led the way to proliferating the holiday throughout the city more than 30 years ago. Their organized celebration, SA Calaveras, is among the more traditional celebrations celebrated annually on Nov. 2 along with Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center‘s ceremonies.

Say Sí, the nonprofit, multidisciplinary arts education center, also hosts a weekend-long artistic and cultural celebration starting the evening of Oct. 31. Market Square hosts additional vendors and a costumed drum procession.

“There is a little bit for everybody,” Padrón said. “In that spirit of continuing to expose the experience of the day for as many people as possible,” it has become Days of the Dead locally.

Día de los Muertos Celebration, La Villita’s event organized by La Villita Historic Arts Village, the DCCD, and Puro Pinche, is no exception – its proximity to local artist shops and spacious plaza has made it one of the more popular celebrations in downtown San Antonio. La Villita will extend its programming reach to a younger crowd this year with the addition of Puro Pinche – the event promotion and planning brainchild of San Antonio native Stephanie Guerra.

[Update: Puro Pinche is no longer involved with La Villita's Día de los Muertos Celebration, but the programming will continue as planned.]

"I think Siclovia is a great way for people to get out and meet others in San Antonio while having fun!" said Stehpanie Guerra, a.k.a. Puro Pinche.

Stephanie Guerra, a.k.a. Puro Pinche, and her event planning team will bring big names to the Arneson River Theatre stage to add to La Villita’s Day of the Dead celebration this year. Photo by Steven Starnes.

Puro Pinche’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter @PuroPincheSA has become a reliable and popular source for twenty somethings and beyond to find daily happenings in San Antonio – mostly of a musical variety, but also includes art shows, film, recreational, and cultural events.

In addition to the La Villita celebration’s local art vendors, traditional music and food options, Guerra and her associates have planned out more art, free music during the two-day festival, larger but affordable concerts in adjacent Arneson River Theatre, and an altar contest to bring even more of the traditional celebration to downtown.

[Updated: Congratulations to Betsy Downing and Stephanie Salazar Gallo they are the winners of  The Rivard Report's Día de los Muertos Celebration concert ticket giveaway. Have a great time]

The Rivard Report has four two-day concert passes to give away to two lucky readers (who can bring a friend) that answer this question in the comment section of this post:

“Who – or what – will you be honoring and/or remembering this year during your Día de los Muertos celebrations?”

Please provide your full name and email address (the latter of which will not be made public and will only be used to contact winners). Winners will be announced and contacted by the end of the day on Monday Oct. 28.

“We’re a bigger market for (Day of the Dead celebrations) than Austin, but we haven’t capitalized on it as far getting more people together to celebrate,” Guerra said. “If you didn’t grow up in that culture, you don’t really know how to participate … (past) celebrations tend to be more traditional in the sense of a religious or cultural thing – we want to focus on making it a community event, you have to be from Mexico or Catholic, everyone can celebrate this awesome cultural event.”

There will also be an educational component to La Villita’s programming with hands-on workshops like sugar-skull decorating and informational talks.

Altars3While several local artists have signed up for the Community Altar Exhibition and Contest, it’s really for anyone or any group (not just professional artists) that wants to prominently display their homage to a loved one, celebrity, or anyone/thing they like Guerra said.

The $30 registration fee is refundable and is really just a way to reserve a spot and ensure that people actually show up on Nov. 1 to build their altar. First place will receive $2,000. Registration closes this Friday, Oct. 18. Visit www.muertosfest.com/altars for details, rules, and registration information.

The contest is sponsored by The Current and inspired by Los Angeles’ Day of the Dead celebration in Hollywood Forever Ceremony. Faith Radle, who is working with festival organizers, brought the idea to the table from her years living in California.

“The thing that makes it magical is the fact that they have this giant altar exhibition contest that’s open to the public,” Radle said of her experience at the cemetery. “I was impressed by the engagement, people really get into it – you get some artists and you get just family members … it sets the mood for the celebration. It’s not just a display, it’s people engaging.”

There will also be a living altar around the fountain in Maverick Plaza – anyone can bring a photo, object or decoration to add to the hodgepodge shrine.

“There are lots of events going on all over the city, but this is really the best downtown option and it’s two days so you can visit La Villita one day and do something else on another,” Radle said.

Free music will be played in the plaza throughout the day which includes traditional and more modern bands and artists. Ticketed concerts are on Friday ($18) and Saturday ($13) nights and include headliners: The Texas Tornados, Neon Indian (DJ Set), La Santa Cecilia and Los Texmaniacs. “It is younger, it is more modern, but it’s still within the spirit of the day,” she said.

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Below is a schedule of Day(s) of the Dead celebrations, I’ll be adding to it once I stumble upon more, so be sure to check back while you’re planning your weekend.

But apparently, Día de los Muertos is not really something you have to “go” to, rather, it’s something that you’re already in. So I’ll see you there.

 

Thursday, Oct. 31

 7:30-10:30 p.m. SAY SÍ: Muertitos Fest Fiesta Opening Night Fundraiser. grand celebration of Jose Guadalupe Posada on the 100th anniversary of his death. This evening will feature a rare exhibition of some of Posada’s original hand-pulled etchings. Art, live music, poetry, food. Tickets $25 pre-sale, $35 at the door.

9 a.m. 4 p.m. SOUTHWEST SCHOOL OF ART: Artist Adriana Corral creates an altar to honor the memory of loved ones for the annual Dia de los Muertos celebration.  The art school community is invited to add personal offerings. The exhibition runs Oct. 29 – Nov. 3, 2013. FREE.

Friday, Nov. 1 (a.k.a. First Friday)

3-9 p.m. LA VILLITA: Original Day of the Dead art; living altar; dance, drum and puppet procession; live poetry and more. 418 Villita St. FREE.

 6-11 p.m. ARNESON RIVER THEATRE: Puro Pinche presents Texas Tornados, Neon Indian (DJ set), T-Bird & The Breaks, and Blackbird Sing. Tickets: $18.

6-9 p.m. CENTRO CULTURAL AZTLAN: Spirit procession, lowrider trunk altars, community altars, live music/performances, artisan market. Deco Building at 1800 Fredericksburg Road. FREE.

6-? p.m. ESPERANZA PEACE AND JUSTICE CENTER: Live music, calaveras literarias (poems), games, food and altars and more will all be a part of this near Westside community event.  Rinconcito de Esperanza, 816 S. Colorado. FREE.

6-10 p.m. SAY SÍ: Muertitos Fest Frist Friday. Music, theatre, dance. 1518 South Alamo St. FREE.

6-10 p.m. COMMANDER’S HOUSE: Dia de los Muertos Masquerade Dance with the Dead.Attendees are invited to embrace the spirit of the event by participating in a masquerade contest while dancing the night away to the music of the Mark Perales Band and Sam Renteria. A meal, provided by Javier’s Catering, is included for $10 per person.

Saturday, Nov. 2

Noon- 6p.m. MARKET SQUARE: Celebration with vendors, dance-and-drum puppet procession. 514 W. Commerce St. FREE.

Noon-6 p.m. LA VILLITA: Original Day of the Dead art; living altar; altar contest; dance, drum and puppet procession; live poetry and more. 418 Villita St. FREE.

Noon-3 p.m. SAY SÍ: Muertitos Fest Family Day. Folk art workshops, artisan market, theatre, dance and more. 1518 South Alamo St. FREE.

6-9 p.m. GUADALUPE CULTURAL ARTS: Workshops, community altars, traditional dancing, face painting, music and more. FREE.

3-9 p.m. CENTRO CULTURAL AZTLAN: Spirit procession, lowrider trunk altars, community altars, live music/performances, artisan market. Deco Building at 1800 Fredericksburg Road. FREE.

 6-11 p.m. ARNESON RIVER THEATRE: Puro Pinche presents La Santa Cecilia, Los Texmaniacs, Bombasta, Money Chicha, and more. Tickets: $13.

Sunday, Nov. 3

 Noon- 6p.m. MARKET SQUARE: Celebration with vendors, dance-and-drum procession. 514 W. Commerce St. FREE.

 

More events can be found at Centro Cultural Aztlan’s Día de los Muertos community event calendar at www.sacalaveras.com.

 

Iris Dimmick is managing editor of the Rivard Report. Follow her on Twitter @viviris or contact her at iris@rivardreport.com.

 

Related Stories:

Gallery: Día de los Muertos by John Schulze

Fourth of July: Firework Shows at Hemisfair Park and Woodlawn Lake

Gallery: Fourth of July, 2013 Edition, in San Antonio

Paddlers Take to the River at Fourth of July King William Yacht Club Regatta

A Cornyation Virgin’s Voyage Through Cringes and Glitter

A Brief Guide to Fiesta for First Timers & The Cascarón App

While Others ‘Fiesta’, San Antonio Cops Keep Things Cool

St. Patrick’s Day: More Than Green Beer and Shamrocks in San Antonio

 




There are 22 comments

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  1. Diana Aguirre Martinez

    I will be honoring both my parents in a small Day of the Dead Altar that we set up yearly here in the Old Spanish Missions Offices on the campus of Oblate School of Theology. We share the building with Catholic Counseling Center and Catholic Relief Services-SW and every year someone else adds to it.

  2. Libby Mattingsley via Facebook

    This year I will be remembering my Grandmother and Grandfather. I will be making shrines for them this weekend. I’ll also be remembering my cat Tuvok who passed away this year.

  3. Libby Mattingsley via Facebook

    My Grandmother was a spitfire who joined the Army during WWII at the age of 14 (lied about her age and changed her name), mothered 7 children, and always watched the style channel with her granddaughter. My Grandfather was a brilliant man who served in the Airfoce, graduated from Trinity University, raised 7 children and two grandchildren as though he was their father.

  4. Tiffany Shokrian

    We will be honoring our grandma who passed three years ago and her mother (our great grandma) who passed just last month.

  5. Christine Rootes

    I will of course be remembering my grandparents & great-grandparents. I will remember my friend Tommy Thompkins who held onto to life with all he had but lost the battle in 1998. I will also be remembering friends have who passed away within the last 2 years; Nancy Foster, founder of Blair’s Sunset Haven Horse Rescue; Ray Kelly, member of NYC’s Mickey Finns; and Doug Tobin, Classics teacher at NYC’s Trinity School.

  6. Blanca Cuellar

    This year I will be honoring my mother-in law who passed away years ago…she was a hard working illegal immigrant. She married my father in law, a marine and gained her citizenship first through marriage, but also through studying American history and the English language. She felt it was extremely important to not only want to come to this country for work & but to also know the people and the history of this nation which was providing vast opportunities for her and my future husband. She gave birth to a great man, my husband and Marine. This day will honor her along with all the illegal immigrants who came to this country and worked every day of their lives, hard and proud to provide for their families. This is also with great hopes for reform in our current immigration laws.

  7. Andrea Lopez via Facebook

    I will be honoring my Granny. This lady was the light of my life, the reason I am a strong, smart independent woman. Taught me to work on cars, hunt and cook. I lost her on my birthday this year.

  8. Don Mathis via Facebook

    I’m thinking about a Writers take a Walk through the National Cemetery at Fort Sam. I’ve got a poem and a flag for each of my friends and family buried there. With any luck, the flags will still be there come Veterans Day.

  9. David Lopez

    Rest in Peace Paternal Grandma and Maternal Grandpa! Those two were the foundations of their respective families. It’s weird that they were the people holding their respective families together. I will honor them both.


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