Where to celebrate Day of the Dead 2017 in Austin

John Ruiz waits for the start of the Dia De Los Muertos parade at the Viva La Vida Festival in downtown Austin in 2016.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

When Mayor Steve Adler announces a citywide Día de los Muertos celebration later this month, it’ll signal a momentous step forward for many community leaders who for years have been working toward boosting the visibility of Austin Day of the Dead events.

Austin Día de los Muertos, a two-week extravaganza from Oct. 21-Nov. 4, will highlight existing annual events with new ones under one marketing campaign.

“We’re excited about bringing awareness of Latino culture to a wider audience,” says Lesly Reynaga, executive director of Austin Day of the Dead. Reynaga says Adler will serve as the honorary chair of an Austin Día de los Muertos committee that’ll explore ways to continue building momentum for the festivities.

Some of Austin’s beloved Day of the Dead events, honoring the dearly departed, include the Mexic-Arte Museum’s Viva la Vida Festival and Parade, which is the city’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead festival. Its grand procession begins at noon on Oct. 28 and ends at the festival on East Fourth Street. Festival-goers can expect hands-on art activities, artist demos, traditional Mexican food, local artist and retail booths, live music, and a low-rider exhibit. In honor of the 110th anniversary of Frida Kahlo, this year’s festival will be dedicated to the Mexican artist.

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Ellen Duvall dressed as Janis Joplin at the Dia De Los Muertos parade at the Viva La Vida Festival in 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Fans of the holiday should also check out the annual Día de los Muertos festival at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center on Oct. 21, which will feature live music and entertainment as well as family art activities. Leading up to the festival, the cultural center will host sugar skull workshops on Oct. 7, 14, and 21.

New to Austin this year will be the Mariachi USA festival on Nov. 4 at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas featuring elite mariachi groups such as the Grammy-nominated Mariachi Los Arrieros and the all-female group Mariachi Las Alteñas. The show will feature Día de los Muertos music and fans will be treated to a stage that’ll be transformed into a giant Day of the Dead altar. Doors open at 3 p.m.

The Easterseals Central Texas will hold its fifth annual Día De Los Muertos Festival at Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater on Nov. 4. This year’s lineup includes local funk masters Grupo Fantasma as well as party instigators Bombasta, all-sister band Tiarra Girls, James Keith and the Moondogs and DJ King Louie of Peligrosa. The festival will help the nonprofit launch its inaugural Disability Awareness Day.

Tickets, which cost $30, can be purchased at austindiadelosmuertos.com. Proceeds from the festival will benefit the Easterseals Central Texas, which focuses on supporting children and adults with disabilities as well as their families and caregivers.

Find out about the various citywide celebrations from concerts to fireworks displays at austindayofthedead.com.

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Mexic-Arte Museum’s Young Latino Artist exhibit opens July 14

Artist Daniela Madrigal used discarded clothing on a wire to create the “Ahora” piece.

During a time of increased anti-immigrant sentiment across the country, racial tensions and a spotlight on the U.S. and Mexico border wall, young Latino/a artists constantly navigate what that means for the American Latino experience today.

For the Mexic-Arte Museum’s annual Young Latino Artists’ exhibit, eight artists under 35 from across Texas will give viewers a unique insight into gender restrictions, privilege, cultural heritage and immigration politics. The “¡Ahora!” (Now!) exhibit opens with a public reception from 7-9 p.m. on July 14 with live music by the Tiarra Girls.

Emerging artist Ashley Mireles’ “Dorothea Novak” piece is part of the YLA “Ahora” exhibit.

The selected artists — Nansi Guevara, Daniela Cavazos Madrigal, Mark Anthony Martinez, Michael Martinez, Paloma Mayorga, Andrei Rentería, Ashley Mireles and José Villalobos — “delve into personal negotiations of being Latinx today,” says the exhibit’s guest curator Alana Coates. “Power disparities in the world are at the core of their practices.”

CULTURA EN AUSTIN: Check out more Latino Cultural Arts Coverage 

In her artwork, Cavazos Madrigal, of Laredo, explores the struggles with language translations in bicultural communities. She uses fabric from bulk thrift stores for her creations, which incorporate text-based embroidery and family heirlooms.

Through new media and textiles, artist Michael Martinez shows the pressure endured by LGBTQ members of the Latin American diaspora. Coates, who is the associate director of Ruiz-Healy Art in San Antonio, will speak about all the featured artists as well as her curatorial process during her curator’s talk on July 15 from 2:30-3 p.m. at Mexic-Arte.

The exhibit, which runs through Aug. 27, also includes additional programming such as a YLA poetry night, members brunch and family day. Cost for the opening night reception is $10 for general admission and free for museum members. Visit mexic-artemuseum.org for more information.

U.S.-Mexico border imagery shines in ‘Icons & Symbols of the Borderland’ exhibit

Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the "Icons & Symbols of the Borderland" exhibit.
Artwork by Richard Armendariz is among the pieces featured at the “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland” exhibit. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

When I close my eyes and think of the Texas borderlands, my home, I see snapshots of the symbols I’ve carried throughout my life — the elaborate images on a soft San Marcos blanket or the street vendor peddling garapiñadas — the bright red sugar-coated peanuts — on the international bridge.

The borderlands, the fluid place between two giant worlds, inform everything about my identity. Often, it’s the icons and symbols of a place you connect with that can offer glimpses into your own life.

The Mexic-Arte Museum’s latest exhibit, “Icons & Symbols of the Borderland,” shines a light on the cultural imagery of the U.S.-Mexico border. Sometimes it’s the landscape of the area that resonates the most in the artwork; other times it’s the food culture or religious iconography.

The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela.
The latest exhibit at Mexic-Arte, which runs through Nov. 13, features the artwork of Miguel Valenzuela. Photo contributed by Mexic-Arte Museum

“In an age where visual representations are fundamental to communication and lifestyle, icons and symbols are the key to ethical precepts, inspirations and beliefs,” guest curator Diana Molina, director of the Juntos Art Association in El Paso, said in a written statement. “They provide a framework for ideals, emotions, philosophy and, ultimately, patterns of behavior.”


The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 13 in the museum’s main gallery, includes the work of more than 20 Juntos Art Association artists. A poignant photo collage by Molina examines the wall that already exists in different border communities from Texas to California. A painting by Antonio Castro titled “Rebirth” depicts an agave growing out of dry, cracked ground in Ciudad Juárez. Agaves, which can survive in the harshest of conditions, bloom after many years. It begins to die after a giant, flowering stalk grows from its center, but it leaves behind seeds for new life. In Castro’s painting, the agave sits in the middle of a desolate road peppered with bullet casings. Instead of a flowering stalk, a newborn baby offers a symbol of another kind of new life.

Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens and students and $1 for children 12 and younger. Visit the Mexic-Arte Museum for free every Sunday. The museum, at 419 Congress Ave., is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 pm. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Visitors can also catch an exhibit of Day of the Dead altars through Nov. 13 in the adjacent annex gallery. Keep an eye out for our upcoming story on each of the elaborate altars this year.