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New Celebration Makes Day of the Dead a Citywide Event

Dawn Robinette |

The City of San Antonio, Visit San Antonio and Day of the Dead San Antonio Launch New Día de los Muertos Slate of Events

San Antonio, TX (Sept. 12, 2019) – San Antonio, widely recognized for its distinct culture and history, will host a new heritage festival marking Día de Los Muertos, Mexico’s holiday of remembrance. The City of San Antonio, Visit San Antonio and Day of the Dead San Antonio have partnered to launch Day of the Dead San Antonio, a citywide celebration destined to become a new tradition.

Day of the Dead San Antonio presented by H-E-B, offers an inclusive and diverse slate of events for the entire city. From a new River Walk parade to lectures, museum exhibitions, festivals, live music and performances, a 5K race and more, Day of the Dead San Antonio brings Mexican traditions to San Antonio to celebrate culture, family and life. Spanning two weekends and in some cases, a full month, Day of the Dead San Antonio’s activities will reach across the city to educate, enlighten and entertain.

Beyond a three-day festival to be hosted in La Villita November 1-3, Day of the Dead San Antonio creates an official period of Día de los Muertos observation across the city, bringing authentic Mexican traditions to San Antonio and inviting residents and visitors to join in the festivities. The celebration embraces other San Antonio events marking the holiday, including all of them on one website, dodsat.com, so the public can easily learn about and join in any and all activities.

The festival and the city’s official celebration of Día de los Muertos aligns with San Antonio’s UNESCO designations. Home to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is also recognized as a “Creative City of Gastronomy”, one of only two U.S. cities to receive the UNESCO honor.

Day of the Dead San Antonio links San Antonio with Mexico’s enduring Día de Los Muertos traditions, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This bridging of cultural heritage will build upon the city’s profile as a place of historic richness, enduring traditions, memorable tastes and unforgettable hospitality.

“I’m so excited that the City of San Antonio, Visit San Antonio, Chef Hernandez and area business partners are making a commitment to honor our city’s rich history, traditions and cultures by starting a new tradition of our own. The Day of the Dead celebration will be a time for San Antonio to celebrate our ancestors, community, heritage and neighbors,” said San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “As we look forward to a holiday that’s focused on the memories we’ve created, I look forward to the memories our community will create through this celebration for years to come.”

Day of the Dead San Antonio, the organizing entity, is creating the festival in partnership with the City of San Antonio, Visit San Antonio, community partners and an advisory committee of local business and community leaders.

“Day of the Dead holds special meaning for our community that is deeply connected with the Mexican culture’s tradition of honoring our loved ones and keeping their legacies alive,” according to Advisory Committee Chairs Kelley and Pat Frost. “Connecting with Día de los Muertos aligns perfectly with our city’s UNESCO designations. We view this as an opportunity to celebrate our city’s roots while honoring our ancestors with the vibrancy and pageantry that the Day of the Dead festival brings.”

Día de los Muertos has grown in popularity as people embrace ways to honor the dead. “The tradition of Mexico's Día de los Muertos honoring our deceased loved ones, by celebrating and remembering their lives, has spread far beyond our borders to many countries across the globe,” said Javier Ruiz- Galindo, founder and CEO of Day of the Dead San Antonio.

Bringing Mexican Día de los Muertos traditions to life is a key motivation behind Day of the Dead San Antonio. Ruiz-Galindo produces worldwide activations that showcase Mexican culture, heritage and traditions. “After our experience in Moscow during the World Cup last year, we recognized that San Antonio, a city thriving with diversity, heritage and history, was the perfect U.S. city to be the home for unique and authentic Day of the Dead celebrations, artworks and family traditions you would normally only experience on a visit to Mexico.”

The idea of creating an accurate celebration of Día de los Muertos in San Antonio is what drew Chef Johnny Hernandez, founder and President of Grupo La Gloria and True Flavors, Inc., to help make the event a reality. “San Antonio and Mexico share so many wonderful traditions and celebrating Day of the Dead is such an important part of who we are and how we protect our cultural heritage into the future,” explained Chef Hernandez.

Day of the Dead San Antonio’s events will help highlight San Antonio as a city of culture. “Residents and visitors alike fall in love with San Antonio over and over again because of the appreciation and respect we have for the multitude of cultures and people who call San Antonio home,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño, District 1 San Antonio. “I envision that Day of the Dead San Antonio will make the city the premier Día de los Muertos celebration destination for the United States.”

Festival Details

Day of the Dead San Antonio is proud to feature H-E-B as the event’s presenting sponsor for both 2019 and 2020. An event as large as Day of the Dead San Antonio requires a partner with deep roots in San Antonio, one with its own unique history, traditions and commitment to the community. With 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, H-E-B understands and values the cultural significance of the Día de los Muertos celebration, making it the perfect partner as the festival begins and grows into a new San Antonio tradition.

“H-E-B is proud to support this inagural event and festive celebration, which highlights the culture and tradition of our great city,” said Cory Basso, H-E-B Group Vice President of Marketing & Advertising.

Highlights of the festival include “Catrineras on the River”, a new river parade illuminating the San Antonio River with the spirit of the Day of the Dead. Co-hosted by official parade partner Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation, Catrineras on the River will feature more than 22 barges spotlighting local San Antonio organizations, with local children aboard many of the barges. This first- ever river parade will feature custom-made barges that mirror the colorful, flat-bottom gondola-like traijneras in Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just south of Mexico City. 

"As an organization with education at the heart of everything we do, we are thrilled to be the official river parade partner. The members of the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation work all year to bring out the best of our city and the Day of the Dead is another important tradition people of all ages can learn about and appreciate. The river parade is an exciting educational opportunity to highlight the rich culture and heritage of our community,” explained Charlie Garza, Regent, Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation and Rey Feo 61.

The river parade also serves as the grand opening of Day of the Dead San Antonio, launching the festival with a special ceremony afloat a barge on the San Antonio River. Mariachis and Day of the Dead dancers portraying La Danza de Los Mojigangas will fill the Arneson River Theater as part of the kick-off. Mojigangas, or giant dancing puppet figures, are a traditional part of Day of the Dead celebrations, providing the perfect start to the Day of the Dead San Antonio festival in La Villita.

From November 1-3, everyone can join in the festivities in La Villita Historic Art Village. Visitors can experience the picturesque Altar de Muertos, have their faces painted with traditional calavera designs and immerse themselves in the experiences surrounding the Day of the Dead. Among the decorations on display in La Villita will be 15 giant skulls painted by local artists and businesses to add a special local touch. Decorated skull sculptures will line downtown’s Houston Street, turning it into Mexicraneos Street, leading revelers to Frost Tower.

Heritage and Art: Honoring Selena

Traditions and art are woven throughout Day of the Dead San Antonio. A Catrina depicting Selena will reign over the Day of the Dead festivities from her customized altar at the corner of S. Alamo and Market Streets. Standing more than 8 feet tall and adorned with more than 2 million beads, the Catrina was handcrafted by more than 40 indigeneous Huichol artisans in Mexico and took two months to produce. Fifteen more Catrines and Catrinas will be featured across the city.

El Día de los Muertos Explained 

Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that has grown in popularity, combines ancient indigenous traditions with Christian-influenced observances. The days mirror the observances of All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. In Mexico, November 1 is el Día de los Inocentes, the Day of the Children, set aside to honor infants and children who have died. November 2 is Día de los Muertos, a day for families to remember the adults they have lost. It is believed that on these days, the souls of the deceased return to earth to be with their families and loved ones, who in turn, remember how the deceased lived by setting up an altar with photographs, the deceased's favorite foods and drinks, and other artistic displays to celebrate the life they lived. While observances vary across the regions of Mexico, costumes, body paint and the imagery of skulls and bones are traditional elements that people use to mark the holiday.

About Day of the Dead San Antonio: Presented by H-E-B, Day of the Dead San Antonio makes its debut this fall as a citywide celebration with a full slate of events never before experienced in San Antonio. Building on traditional “Día de los Muertos” celebrations, Day of the Dead San Antonio includes a new river parade that will illuminate the San Antonio River with celebration and remembrance in an all-new way, a 5K race, a three-day festival filling La Villita with music, food, celebration and remembrance, as well as exhibitions and activities across the city. For more information, visit dodsat.com.