Skeletons on parade: Day of the Dead 2010

Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday known as Day of the Dead, is embraced in Austin each year with a street festival and parade. Unlike the macabre spectacle of Halloween, Day of the Dead is traditionally about remembering and honoring departed loved ones by creating altars in their memory, holding candlelight vigil at cemeteries, and bringing food (like pan de Muerto, or bread of the dead, pictured above) for the dead to enjoy on their annual night among the living.

Dia de los Muertos is of pagan origin but was later tied to the Catholic observances of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, and occurs on November 2. Austin celebrated early last Saturday with a block party next to the Mexic-Arte Museum, paper-mache skeletons, bright orange marigolds, live music, and throngs of people in old-fashioned finery and skeleton face paint.

People’s faces are oddly compelling in skeleton disguise. You look closely at their eyes, trying to read them.

“Til death do us part,” the mural reads—but on this night, the dead are not parted from us.

Some people soften their skeletal look with the addition of flowers, dots, and hearts.

Even the dachshund is dressed for the part.

More paper-mache decor

A band of musicians has played their fingers to the bone.

Chihuahua owners bring their pets along in costume. I’m not sure this little guy was all chihuahua, but he had style.

This skinny fellow looks like he’s ready to take a siesta after partaking of the tamale and bean feast.

Our Lady was propped up in repose while spectators noshed and watched the band.

Not all the face painting was skeletal.

This 8-foot-tall calavera was a giant-sized sugar skull made of recycled material. Check out the beer-bottle teeth! And are those hubcap eyes?

Marigolds for sale

Just before dusk the paraders arrived at Congress Avenue, where we stood to watch the spectacle.

I loved this dancing Catrina, a popular Dia de los Muertos figure meant to illustrate that even the wealthy and self-important must die like everyone else.

Another chihuahua accompanies this woman. And check out the cool priest skeleton.

These skeleton women represent Mexico’s ancient Aztec culture, whose festivals of the dead evolved into today’s Dia de los Muertos.

The Aztec-costumed men wear considerably less than the women. That’s a switch, eh?

Beautifully costumed dancers were next, half their faces painted like skeletons, the other half “living.”

Huge puppets held aloft depict revolutionary heroes from Mexico’s struggle for independence.

There’s always a Frida Kahlo at Day of the Dead.

This girl is costumed like Frida. The unibrow is the giveaway.

Another skeleton woman with a chihuahua

And a lady in red

These zombie women in gory costume didn’t quite fit in with the Day of the Dead theme. Perhaps they’d participated in the Thriller zombie dance earlier in the day?

What a smile

A more pensive skeleton, with one of the revolutionaries to her left

More parade participants—even children get in on the act.

Lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) costumes

I was surprised and delighted to recognize two people in the parade. The bearded skeleton, Mark, is a teacher at my children’s school, and the tall skeleton is none other than blogging friend Lee of The Grackle.

I really enjoy this festival, especially the costumes of the participants and the joyous remembrance that the holiday celebrates.

Happy Dia de los Muertos!

For more images and information about this holiday, click on the link to my 2008 Day of the Dead post.

All material © 2006-2010 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

16 Responses

  1. fer says:

    Me encanta el Dia de Muertos!
    You just brought me a smile and a lot of memories of my country. Thanks!
    I was missing some of the tradition being all the way here in Japan. Nice to see they have some of it in Texas.

  2. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    I always look forward to your report about this celebration. It brings new meaning to the Day of The Dead or All Souls day.

  3. Weeder says:

    Wonderful photos (as usual). I like the Happy Memories Of The Dead celebration better than the scary, creepy mode of Halloween.. though I do like Halloween too. LOL

  4. jenny says:

    Amazing photographs capture some wonderful scary faces. How creative people are. I don’t know how you recognized Lee. I don’t think I would. Thanks for taking us to the parade.

    Lee’s stature is unmistakable, Jenny. I saw a really tall, slim guy and knew it had to be him. —Pam

  5. Gail says:

    I love Austin! Thank you for sharing the celebration~the costumes and creative face painting were marvelous this year~gail

  6. Beautiful colors! Great job capturing the mood of the festival!

  7. Lee says:

    What wonderful photos! You captured the event so well. This was my first year, but I’m hooked. It was really such a nice procession through east and west Austin. Viva la Vida!

  8. Thank you, Pam! Some Day we’ll get there but in the meantime love your photos and sent a link to your post to our family.
    The costumes are incredible – also love the Catrina.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  9. Loree says:

    Okay that does it! We are visiting Austin and it will be in October…what fun!

  10. We just set up our Day of the Dead table this weekend. We’re not Mexican, but started doing it the year my dad died, after having seen a Day of the Dead table in a Folk arts exhibition. Seemed like a good way to remember him and was cathartic for our daughter. We even have sugar skull molds and make and paint our own sugar skulls and give them to friends. Great pictures. Looks like a fun parade/party.

  11. Paul says:

    Great shots. We don’t get into many of the pagan festivals in Oz, worse luck. Some really detailed makeup there. Looks great.

  12. David C says:

    Now, I need to look up some local Dia de los Muertos celebrations! Never been to one, but yours’ looks just like I would expect it to.

  13. Thanks for your annual Day of the Dead festival photos. I wonder with our large Hispanic community why it isn’t celebrated more here. In Oklahoma, Halloween reigns. Of course, it’s anglicized All Hallow’s Eve, the day before All Saints and then the less celebrated All Souls celebrated on my sister’s birthday every year.

    Happy Fiesta my friend. Maybe I can come visit sometime. BTW, the ghoulie girls (hacked and chopped) gave me the creeps.~~Dee

  14. Les says:

    This looks like wonderful fun.

  15. Kacky says:

    Awesome photos- you truly captured the essence of the festival/ celebration.

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