An ancient Mesoamerican tradition celebrating life, death and those who have passed on, known as Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, has survived thousands of years. The tradition is still very much alive today.
As a city heavily influenced by Mexican culture, Austin will begin its annual Dia de los Muertos festival with music, art, dance, food, drink, life and memories beginning Oct. 17.
Mexico’s Día de los Muertos festival was once celebrated by most of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, with evidence of the tradition found in remains of the Olmec, Zapotec, Aztec, Mixtec, Mayan, Totonac and P’urhepecha peoples. Traditions have been passed on through generations.
Día de los Muertos originally took place in August around harvest season, and lasted an entire month. The purpose of the festival was to remember those who have passed, and celebrate rather than mourn. It was not only a celebration of death, but also of life and rebirth. These ancient cultures believed that death was not the end; it was a time of passing into another world. During the time of the Day of the Dead, or rather Days of the Dead, it was believed that the spirits were able to pass back into this world and were more likely to communicate with the living.
While the Spanish didn’t succeed in eliminating the celebration, they did succeed in changing the dates from late summer to coincide with the Catholic holidays of All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Oct. 31-Nov. 2).
In an effort to remember the dead and help them find their way back to their families, people build altars and decorate them with photos and other memorabilia of the dead. They also include the favorite food and drinks of the deceased, as well as candy, particularly skulls made of sugar. They also offer a type of sweet bread called pan de muerto. The altars are decorated with vibrant colors, candles and marigolds. These are said to help the spirits find their way back.
Skulls and skeletons or calaveras are an important symbol in the festival of the Day of the Dead–a symbol from the Aztecs that has survived the ages. In modern celebrations, many figurines and costumes of Catrina can be found, a skeleton woman in a dress with elaborate makeup. The Catrina icon is said to be a modern representation of the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl, “Lady of the Dead,” brought to light in a new image by the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera.
Austin’s Dia de los Muertos 2015
This year from Oct. 17-Nov. 7, the Austin area will celebrate Days of the Dead. One of Austin’s main events will take place on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 12-10 p.m. at Fiesta Gardens. Admission is $15 and proceeds from this event go to the Easter Seals of Central Texas.
Attendees will see a number of music and dance performances. The headlining artists are Grammy Award winner Emilio Navaira, La Vida Boheme from Venezuela and Son de Rey. Other artists that will play include Kinski Gallo, Devin Banda, Son Armado, Las Monas and DJ Frank Castle. Dance performances will be given by the Austin Samba School, Ballet Folklorico de Texas and Grupo de Danza Mexica-Chimimeca.
Food will be offered by various food truck vendors. There will also be beverages and arts and crafts for sale. A Dia de los Muertos parade will start at 5 p.m. Anyone can participate and dressing up is encouraged, especially in costumes that represent Day of the Dead. Other activities include an altar contest, where participating groups can build an alter for loved ones. There will also be a kids’ zone with piñata parties.
Additional events in honor of Dia de los Muertos will take place in the Austin area until Nov. 7. Some of these include music, art, parades and more from Mexic-Arte Museum and Mexican American Cultural Center. For tickets and more information about Austin’s Dia de los Muertos events, visit these websites:
@natalien_n wants to know:
What’s your favorite aspect of Dia de los Muertos?
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