On Nov. 1 and 2, San Antonio will celebrate Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that is celebrated all over the world, a day when the living honor and commune with the returning spirits of their deceased loved ones. In San Antonio, the celebrations always follow the U.S. tradition of Halloween on Oct. 31. For many, the traditions have merged into one long celebration that combines public celebrations and at-home rituals.
Lively celebrations and festivals during the day honor the lives of the dead with customs that combine indigenous Aztec ritual with Catholicism, a religion that celebrates All Soul’s Day and All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1 and 2. The tradition is a way to make death a natural and accepted part of the human experience. On Día de los Muertos, the dead are awakened from their eternal slumber, their spirits returning home to share celebrations with their families.
Many families assemble elaborate altars honoring lost loved ones, decorating them with personal mementos, photographs, sugar skulls, papel picado, and folk art. Each altar contains elements representing water, wind, fire and earth. You don’t have to be of Mexican descent to appreciate or adopt the tradition. Click here to read more about assembling a family altar.
Many families then take their celebrations to the cemetery where they commune with the spirits of dead friends and family members, gatherings that center around food, drink, song, and shared memories and stories. Often times families clean and prepare gravesites weeks in advance of Día de los Muertos and adorn them with flowers, candles and incense.
Nov. 1 and 2 fall on a Sunday and Monday this year, but events and activities will begin a full week before then. There are many choices for celebrating the tradition this year. Please contact us if we missed your event and we will add it.
The free weekend event features the largest open altar exhibition in the city, live music at Arneson River Theatre, original artwork, a living altar, dancing, a drum and puppet procession, live poetry, and more. The celebration will take place on Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 25, 12-10 p.m., at the La Villita Historic Arts Village.
VIA Metropolitan Transit will offer service to the celebration, including the Red Circulator (301), Blue Circulator (305), and The E, VIA’s free downtown circulator, which runs every 10 minutes downtown from 6 p.m. to midnight on Saturday. To plan your ride, visit VIA’s website here.
The Traders Village Day of the Dead event on Saturday, Oct. 24, will have a parade, altars, artists, dancing, kid rides, and food. Make your own Día de los Muertos mask (noon-1 p.m.) and join the parade dressed in a Día de Los Muertos costume at 1:30 p.m. There is a $3 parking fee. The event is located at Traders Village, 333 Southwest Loop 410.
Learn how to create your own altar, for free, on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 5-8 p.m. Bring a photo of a deceased loved one. Craft supplies will be provided. The event will take place downtown at the Casa Navarro State Historic Site.
Join Huarache Turbo on Friday, Oct. 30, at 6 p.m. to celebrate Día de los Muertos with its fifth annual Dia de los Muertos 5k Run. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top three best costumes. A percentage of proceeds from this run will benefit Girls on the Run, a nonprofit learning program for girls. The event costs $20-40 and is staged at Lady Bird Johnson Park on the city’s Northeast side.
There are several Día de los Muertos events happening at the Guadalupe Cultural Center this year on Sunday, Nov. 1 from 2-7:30 p.m. There is the Galería Altar Exhibition, 2-7:30 p.m., in the Galería Guadalupe created by a range of artists. There is a reading and book signing, 3-5 p.m. featuring San Antonio Poet Laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero, the Guadalupe’s literary arts director and writer-in-residence, who will read from her book, “A Crown for Gumecindo.” Admission is $10.
The Outdoor Día de los Muertos Event, 5-7:30 p.m, will feature art-making workshops, face-painting, a peace and remembrance procession, and community altars. Watch performances by the Guadalupe Dance Company and Academy, Grupo Animo, and Mariachi Guadalupe.
Join the San Antonio Symphony at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in an hour-long family concert for kids on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2-4 p.m. There will be colorful music by south-of-the-border composers Manuel Ponce, Silvestre Revueltas and José Moncayo. Come in your best Día de los Muertos costume for the Spooktacular Costume Contest. Pre-concert activities for kids, including musical crafts and games, an instrument petting zoo with symphony musicians, and face painting by Lily Bear Face Painting. Family concerts are designed for children age 4-11, but can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Admission is $5.
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The family-friendly, community-based event on Sunday, Nov. 1, 3 – 9 p.m. will include a Día de los Muertos procession to start the night, altars created by Buena Gente de Esperanza, live music by local bands, and free food. Donations will be accepted at the door. The location of the event is at the Rinconcito de Esperanza, 816 S. Colorado St. on the city’s Westside.
“Imagine a moving altar of Muerto characters wearing vivid masks, large sugar calaveras heads and flowers–but dancing down the street,” states the Urban 15 website. On Sunday, Nov. 1, the visual and performance art collective’s annual event will take place at the Instituto Cultural de México, 600 Hemisfair Plaza Way, at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, the celebration moves to Centro Cultural Aztlan, 1800 Fredericksburg Rd. Suite 103. The performance ritual combines traditional Mexican culture as well as Brazilian and Portuguese dance.
Decorate sugar skulls and masks in the midst of the San Antonio Museum of Art’s folk art collection on Sunday, Nov. 1, 12-4 p.m. The event is free with museum admission and there is complimentary admission for San Antonio Independent School District families.
Community artists will show their altars in the Centro Cultural Aztlan gallery and help facilitate a dialogue to examine the history and traditions of Día de los Muertos. The event is Monday, Nov. 2, 6-9 p.m.
The SAY Sí Muertitos Fest is sure to be an intimate and high-spirited celebration focused on the Mexican state of Oaxaca. Feast on re-interpreted Oaxacan Mexican food by San Antonio’s ¡Viva Vegeria! Enjoy specialty cocktails made with mezcal, live music and poetry as you check out crafts, artwork, and altars. The event takes place on Thursday, Nov. 5, 7-10:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 presale and $40 at the door. Only 200 tickets are available.
SAY Sí is hosting a three-day, family-focused festival celebrating San Antonio’s Mexican-American culture Nov. 5-7. Muertitos Fest provides an educational component for the holiday, with unique cultural activities including an exhibition of student folk art and new work by local artists Kathy Sosa and Veronica Prida. The notable folk art exhibit includes trees of life, altars to honor the departed, family art workshops, food booths, artisan stalls and live cultural performances. With the theme, “Tree of Life: Storytelling and Rituals,” all artwork, installations and performances will focus on the art of ritual as a means of sharing family history and tradition. The event is free and open to the public.
Aerial Horizon presents, Cirque de los Muertos, a Cirque-style celebration of Day of the Dead. The performer’s spirits will rise in a production from beyond this world. Ground and air unite with jaw-dropping acts on silks, lyra, rope, trapeze, contortion, acrobatics, and more. Don’t miss this family-friendly event at Brick at Blue Star on Oct. 28, 29, and 30 at 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:15 p.m.) and stay after the show to meet the artists and enjoy live music. The event costs $20-25 and tickets can be purchased here.
Say Sí has offered parking for audience members at their lot across the street from Blue Star (1518 S Alamo St.). Please arrive early, as parking at Blue Star is limited.
The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a Día de los Muertos Masquerade Ball on Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. Those at the Tobin Center are asking attendees to come to the ball wearing amados’ calavera masks or face makeup to celebrate both Fashion Week San Antonio 2015 and Día de los Muertos. Complimentary cocktails will be served and international DJ, Sammi Morales, will spin records. Dress ready for head turns as prizes valued at more than $3,000 will be given away to the three best looks of the night. Tickets for the ball can be found here.
*Top image: Día de los Muertos revelers take over La Villita. Photo by Stephen G. McDowell.