Today is the final day of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a 3-day Mexican holiday that’s celebrated here in Austin too. My daughter and I attended the Day of the Dead parade in downtown Austin on Saturday, part of the 32nd annual Viva la Vida Festival, and we enjoyed the beautiful costumes of the participants and many of the spectators as well. This trio, with Marie Antoinette-style, cotton-candy-colored hair, may have been my favorites.
The painted-on skeleton faces are not meant to be scary, as in the Halloween tradition. Rather they symbolize our connection with loved ones who’ve passed away. These women carried bouquets of flowers, and in fact flowers and skulls are a common theme in Dia de los Muertos decor and costumes, although traditionally the flowers are marigolds.
This little girl standing beside us along the parade route wore blue flowers. Even her skeleton eyes had been painted with blue petals.
Another little girl wore a pink flower in her hair.
The skull-and-flower shirts of this couple caught my eye as we waited for the parade to arrive.
And here they came. We’d staked out a spot along 6th Street across from the historic Driskill Hotel. The enthusiastic spectators, while plentiful, were not overcrowded. It felt wonderfully small-town, as Austin sometimes still does.
I’m sure there’s much about the symbolism that’s lost on me, since I didn’t grow up with this tradition. Is this a traditional family with deceased mamá, reunited on this day? Update: My thanks to Luisa (see her comment for more) for her insightful explanation that this is a Diego Rivera mural brought to life: “You can find the group in the center of this famous mural, Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park (Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central) by Diego Rivera. You see the Catrina in the center, with the feathered serpent of Aztec mythology around her shoulders. She is arm in arm with her creator, the great printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada, who popularized calaveras in his work at the turn of the last century. Holding her other hand is the artist Diego Rivera as a child, and behind him, with her hand on young Diego’s shoulder, is Frida Kahlo, Rivera’s wife and a great artist in her own right.”
This woman came dancing down the street in a black dress adorned with tiers of flowery tulle.
A car-sized skull with crepe-paper flowers appeared next, powered not by gasoline but by people underneath pushing a wheeled platform.
Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Latin America, as these Peruvian dancers illustrated. Notice the flowery vests and skirts.
Colorfully dressed women from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico, danced with pineapples on their shoulders.
Ribbons braided into their hair added extra color.
Aztec dancers came next, the men with painted bodies, fantastic feathered headdresses, and rattling seedpods around their ankles.
Their faces were painted as skeletons or half-skeletons.
Some wore taxidermy animal heads in their feathered headgear, like this coyote…
…or animal skulls.
With metallic accents jangling on their dresses, women Aztec dancers followed, dashing down the street…
…anklet seedpods rattling…
…leaping and stopping short. It was a dramatic dance.
Other paraders were content to merely stroll, he in a top hat, she with marigolds in her hair.
More marigolds adorned a life-size Frida Kahlo made of papier-mâché.
Larger-than-life papier-mâché figures of Mexican heroes came rolling down the street: another Frida, Pancho Villa, and a blue-suited military figure (who does it represent?).
Pancho’s in the middle, but I don’t know the other two.
These lacy costumes were lovely. Red netting lightly veiled the women’s skeleton faces.
More flower-painted eyes
He had a great costume…
…and some playful dance moves.
More lively skeletons
Accompanied by the percussion of a samba beat, dancers in white came stepping down the street, led by a joyful woman in a turban.
She looked blissed out.
The samba dancers, their faces painted like skeletons, made the parade feel like a party.
Joyful smiles and flowers in their hair
I was looking for my friend Lee Clippard of The Grackle blog, who I knew would be drumming with Austin Samba. It’s hard to miss Lee because he’s tall enough to stand out in a crowd.
We saw him leading the drummers down 6th Street…
…and followed them around the corner to Congress Avenue, where they really knocked out that samba beat. The tall skeleton at back, third from the right, is my kids’ former math teacher, Mr. Mark Hathaway!
This woman had an incredible costume with a bit of skull-and-crossbones flair.
And who wouldn’t want to be a magical unicorn skeleton, just for one day?
As the parade ended, we stopped to look at the giant papier-mâché puppets up close.
They are very tall.
This skeleton riding a skeleton horse was decked out in paper marigolds.
Others were checking out the props too, like this huge skull.
A cute Bat Dog
A handsome couple
Frida and flowers
The Dia de los Muertos parade is one of my favorite annual events in Austin. Maybe next year I’ll go in costume myself.
Painted skulls on the wall of the Mexic-Arte Museum, which sponsors the parade
This mural is a classic.
Happy Dia de los Muertos! If you’d like to see additional posts I’ve written about Austin’s Day of the Dead parade, click these links:
Skeletons on parade: Day of the Dead 2010
Dia de los Muertos in Austin, 2008
All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.