Dia de los Muertos – How Austin Honors Its Dead

It sounds kind of creepy at first – hanging out in graveyards, building altars for dead people, and making candy skeletons on a day that isn’t Halloween.

This is a tradition, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), celebrated in Mexico and by Latin Americans in the U.S. and Canada on November 1 and 2. Families gather to pray and remember friends and family that have died by building elaborate grave altars filled with flowers, photos, toys for dead children, and special food like candied pumpkin, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and sugar candy skulls.

Skulls and calacas, or skeletons, became more popular and symbolic of the holiday after the Mexican artist and illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada frequently used them in his newspaper cartoons in the early 20th century.

Austinites still celebrate Day of the Dead mostly through art and community gatherings. The Mexic-Arte Museum downtown displays a Dia de los Muertos exhibition every year full of contemporary art, community altars, and offerings to pay tribute to those who’ve passed on.

Mexic-Arte Museum

Day of the Dead altar

Day of the Dead

Ofrendas - Offerings

Day of the Dead Altar

I think my favorite pieces were this silkscreen titled “Flor de Muerto” and the murals on the outside of the building:

Day of the Dead - Flor de Muertos

Alfonso Huerta's "Flor de Muerto"

Day of the Dead Mural

The Mexican-American Culture Center is also throwing a Day of the Dead festival today, November 1, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., with music, food, and crafts. Build a community altar or take a workshop on making candy sugar skulls and paper mache skeletons. This event is free. 

Mexic-Arte Museum
419 Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 480-9373

Mexican American Cultural Center
600 River St
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 478-6222



Filed under Art, Austin

4 responses to “Dia de los Muertos – How Austin Honors Its Dead

  1. Every culture in the world seems to have their version of this day. All saints day in the uk.
    Just makes me think about how connected we really are

  2. Laura Daly

    KT told me about your blog, its wonderful, keeping me moving: I went to the Texas Book Festival yesterday and your motivating me to go to the Mexican-American Cultural Center today, keep writing!

    • birdflygood

      That’s great! Thanks for stopping by 🙂
      The Mexic-Arte Museum also has some really great installation pieces. Miss you! I need to come by and visit soon!

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