A photo collage of three attendees during Dia de los Muertos at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. (left to right) Dana, 11, Madelynn, 6, and Sara de la Garza.
A photo collage of three attendees during Dia de los Muertos at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. (From left) Dana, 11, Madelynn, 6, and Sara de la Garza. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Día de Muertos, Day of the Dead, holds a sacred place of reflection in the hearts of many San Antonians. The ancient Mexican tradition of celebrating the lives and legacies of deceased ancestors is deeply engrained in the cultural fabric of a city that values family, rituals, and the stories of the lives of those who came before us.

Celebrations took place all over the city.

La Villita hosted a two-day festival, co-sponsored by the City’s Center City Development and Operations Department, that included a variety of activities for residents and visitors of all ages, ranging from an arts market that featured more than 35 vendors, live music, and workshops on the history, rituals, and traditions of Día de Muertos.

The activities that last year drew more than 30,000 attendants benefitted Inner City Development, a community-based nonprofit organization dedicated to responding to emergency, educational, and recreational needs of the neighborhood on the city’s near Westside.

The heart and soul of the festivities, the largest outdoor display of Día de Muertos altars in the city, could be found at La Villita Historic Arts Village and yielded generous cash prizes for participating artists, schools, and community members.

The free, two-day concert series at Arneson River Theater featured alt-Latino headliners such as Mexrrissey and El Conjunto Nueva Ola as well as local acts VolcanLos Nahuatlatos, Eva Ybarra y Su Conjunto Siempre, Femina-X and Grupo Frackaso.

The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center‘s celebrations, which had been honoring the occasion with events ranging from lectures, dance, musical, poetry, and teatro performances since Oct. 12, culminated in the afternoon-long Día de Muertos festivities at the Galería Guadalupe.

People of all ages partook in face-painting, art and writing workshops, and a peaceful remembrance procession, and enjoyed dance and musical performances as well as local treats such as pan de muerto y chocolate.

The mixtli of artistic vibrancy, uninhibited joy, and solemn reverence that defines Día de Muertos may be second nature to long-time San Antonians, but perhaps not to visitors roaming the urban core’s streets on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Imagine their wonder upon encountering the colorful faces and facets of creative expression that children and adults paying homage to the traditions that have molded this city over several centuries produced this weekend. Perhaps it gave them a true sense of what it means to be alive in our city today.

Scroll through the photo galleries above and below for a taste of the weekend celebrations.

Scott Ball

Scott Ball is San Antonio Report's photo editor and grew up in San Antonio.

Hanna Oberhofer

Before moving to San Antonio in 2004, Hanna was a competitive rhythmic gymnast in her native Austria. She earned degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Texas State Graduate College before joining...