Top image: A Día de los Muertos performer on stilts poses for a photo during the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center celebrations in 2015. Photo by Scott Ball.

Individuals and organizations across San Antonio have already begun preparations for Día de Muertos. The lively festival originated in Mexico, with customs that combine those of indigenous Aztecs and Catholicism to honor deceased loved ones – but not with somber processionals or quiet graveside visits. Instead events involve music, dancing, puppets, food, drinks and the more vibrant colors the better. San Antonio’s close ties to Latin America have made it easy to spot elaborate alters, sugar skulls, masked dancers, face paint, and pan de muerto, throughout the city in the weeks leading up to (and after) the official days of the dead, Nov. 1 and 2.

From the time-honored traditions in La Villita, to the relatively new night run at Lady Bird Johnson Park, to a symphony at the Tobin, there are plenty of ways to celebrate.

Oct. 29-30 Muertosfest at Historic La Villita

The largest Day of the Dead celebration in San Antonio takes place at La Villita every year. Last year, more than 30,000 people attended. The all-ages event, which will take place on Oct. 29-30 from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. and noon-10 p.m., respectively, will include the usual arts market with more than 35 vendors, a dance, drum, and puppet procession, and workshops on the traditions and history of the popular holiday.

The event promises a showcase of some of the best alt-Latino and Cumbia musicians, including Mexrrissey – Mexico Goes Morrissey, El Conjunto Nueva Ola, Volcán, Femina-X, Las Tesoros de San Anto, and more.

The main attraction of the event is always the altar exhibition and contest, the largest outdoor exhibition of altars in the city. As always, cash prizes will be given to the winners of First Place ($2,000), Second Place ($1,000), and the Audience Favorite ($500).

The event is free and open to the public.

Nov. 3-5  SAY Sí’s 10th Annual Muertitos Fest

SAY Si’s annual three-day celebration of the Day of the Dead celebrates 10 years of focusing and celebrating the history of the holiday and commemorating Mexican-American culture in San Antonio. This year’s theme is “Fronteras de la Tierra y Cielos (Borders of the Earth and Heavens).” Each performance, artwork, installation, and altar will focus on the connections between the living and the dead.

Only 200 tickets are available to the Muertitos Fest Opening Night Fundraiser for $35 pre-sale or $40 at the door, where patrons can listen to live music and poetry and get a preview of the artwork in store for the next two days while they enjoy Mexican delicacies by Viva Vegeria on Thursday, Nov. 3 from 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

The festivities continue on Nov. 4 from 6-10 p.m with Muertitos Fest First Friday, where a full display of art exhibitions and altars will entertain festival-goers while they participate in hands-on art activities with live musical guests. The event is free and open to the public.

The last event of the festival is the Muertitos Fest Family Day, on Nov 5. from 12-4 p.m. People of all ages can participate in family folk art workshops, get their faces painted, and shop from the various vendors. There will be a special family concert in the SAY Sí Black Box Theater. The event is free and open to the public.

Madelyn, 5, wears a decorative costume for Day of the Dead complete with candles on her ultra wide brimmed hat. Photo by Scott Ball.
Madelyn, 5, wears a decorative costume for Day of the Dead complete with candles on her ultra wide brimmed hat. Photo by Scott Ball.

SAY Sí Communication Manager Stephen Guzman told the Rivard Report that the organization tries to emphasize the educational opportunity that the holiday presents.

“As a creative youth development organization, we here at SAY Sí seek to contribute an educational aspect to our city’s vibrant Día de Muertos festivities,” Guzman said. “Through Muertitos Fest, visitors can explore contemporary perspectives on the holiday while learning all about its history and roots.”

All events take place at SAY Sí Central at 1518 South Alamo St.

Oct. 29-30 Día de Muertos at Historic Market Square

More festivities take place in downtown San Antonio with Day of the Dead celebrations at Historic Market Square taking place on Oct. 29 and 30, both from noon to 6 p.m. Expect El Mercado to be fully adorned with altars and a special procession on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 30 Día de Muertos Celebration at Galería Guadalupe

Performers stand at the door before they are called out on stage. Photo by Scott Ball.
Performers stand at the door before they are called out on stage. Photo by Scott Ball.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center will host its Day of the Dead festivities in its art gallery, where altars will be exhibited starting from Oct. 21 to Nov. 11. The main celebration will be held on Oct. 30, with art-making workshops, a peace and remembrance procession, face-painting, and a showcase of community altars. The traditional pan de muerto and chocolate will be served as attendees take in performances by the Guadalupe Dance Company and Academy, Mariachi Guadalupe, Grupo Animo, and Barrio Writers Youth Writing Group.

The event is free and open to the public.

Satuday, Oct. 29 Huarache Turbo’s Sixth Annual Día de Muertos Night Run

Huarache Turbo, an organization that seeks to combine running with Mexican folklore, is holding it’s sixth annual 5k and 10k Night Run at Lady Bird Johnson Park on Oct. 29 starting at 4 p.m. Registration for the 5k is $35 while the 10k is $40. An additional Kids Fun Run will also be held, along with a costume contest.

For more info and registration, click here.

Friday, Oct. 28 The Muertosween Bash at The McNay

The McNay Art Museum is combining the traditions of Day of the Dead and Halloween in this 21+ costume dance party on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $35. Snacks will be provided by Bakery Lorraine and beer will be provided by Alamo Beer Co.

To buy your ticket, click here.

Theresa Hernandez plays a Day of the Dead bride to be. Photo by Scott Ball.
Theresa Hernandez plays a Day of the Dead bride to be. Photo by Scott Ball.

Saturday, Oct. 29 Día de Muertos Party Hosted by The Mexican American Bar Association (MABA)

MABA is hosting a Day of the Dead party at the Scottish Rite Auditorium on Oct 29 from 7 p.m.-midnight. A costume contest with cash prizes will be held, with individual male and female categories having $100 prizes while couples could win $150 and groups could win $250.

Food is available for purchase from Las Palapas and alcoholic drinks are included in the ticket, which can be purchased by clicking here.

Tuesday, Nov. 1 Halloween Spooktacular: Día de Muertos at The Tobin Center

The San Antonio Symphony will host this Day of the Dead-inspired musical performance the day after Halloween for the whole family. The symphony, conducted by Akiko Fujimoto, will play music by some of the most famous Mexican composers, such as Manuel Ponce, Silvestre Revueltas, and José Pablo Moncayo.

Pre-concert activities for the kids and a costume contest will be held before the show begins at 2 p.m. on Nov. 1. Tickets are available through the San Antonio Symphony.

Nov. 2-8 Southwest School of Art Celebrates Día de Muertos

Each year, the Southwest School of Art invites a local artist to make their own version of an offering for the Day of the Dead. This year, the school will present a “La Ofrenda” by Daniela Riojas, a local multimedia artist whose work favors the ritual and practice of nature religions while balancing the idea of the mother figure with society’s reverence of the father figure.

The installation debuts at the school’s Santikos Lobby Gallery on Nov. 2 and runs through Nov. 8, and is free and open to the public.

Saturday, Oct. 22 Día de Muertos at Traders Village

The flea market expanding more than 100 acres will celebrate the Day of the Dead with altars, artists, dancing, a parade, and more on Saturday, Oct. 22 starting at noon. Families can participate in a mask making workshop, then use those masks to participate in the parade. Admission is $4 per car.

Saturday, Oct. 29 Día de Muertos at the San Antonio Botanical Garden

As part of the BOOtanica Saturday’s series, the San Antonio Botanical Garden will hold a Day of the Dead event for the whole family on Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. Costumes are encouraged with activities for the whole family planned.

The event is free with admission to the garden, which is $10 for adults and $7 for children ages 3-13. Children under three get in free.

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.