Serving up a reflective counterpoint to the ghosts, goblins and zombies that haunt Halloween, the pre-Columbian tradition of Día de los Muertos thrives in San Antonio through a wide assortment of celebrations on or around All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2).
Chomping at the bit, the wildly popular Día de los Muertos at La Villita (aka Muertos Fest) adds a contemporary, user-friendly spin to the occasion, which typically revolves around homegrown altars that honor the dearly departed with cherished items, favorite snacks, keepsakes, marigolds and deathly hallmarks including sugar skulls, pán de muerto and papier-mâché skeletons.
As elders may remind, these offerings are meant to summon our lost loved ones from the afterlife (or the “Land of the Dead” as it’s called in Pixar’s Oscar-winning blockbuster Coco). Taking over all corners of the storied village, the free, kid-friendly, weekend fiesta combines an eclectic, Latin-leaning lineup — which this year features Tex-Mex punk quartet Piñta Protest, Selena tribute band Bidi Bidi Banda, South Texas soul throwback Eddie and The Valiants, “nu-cumbia pioneer” El Dusty, all-female supergroup Las Tesoros de San Antonio, psychedelic cumbia outfit Money Chicha and the always-festive Guadalupe Dance Company, among others — with a high-stakes altar competition that pays out $2,000 for first place, $1,000 for second place, $500 for the “audience favorite” (your vote counts!) and $500 for “the best entry by a school or student arts organization.” Given the cash up for grabs, competitors often go over the top with creations both reverent (honoring everything from ancestors to pets) and playful (previous years have seen amusing tributes to horror icon Clive Barker and the only Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder).
Touted by USA Today as one of the “10 Great Day of the Dead Celebrations,” the fest rounds out the experience with costumed processions (7pm Sat, 3pm Sun), creative workshops, poetry readings and food and beverage booths (yes, there’s beer) and a stacked roster of artsy vendors, including such local faves as BarbacoApparel, VeryThat, Las Ofrendas, La Casa Frida and Que Retro Arts.
Free, 10am-11pm Sat Oct. 27, noon-9pm Sun Oct. 28, La Villita, 418 Villita St., (210) 207 8614, muertosfest.com.
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