Austin Celebrates Día de Los Muertos

An event that has been growing recognition in the city of Austin is Día de los Muertos, which translates to “Day of the Dead.” Despite the misconceptions, this holiday is not the “Mexican” version of Halloween. Instead, Día de Los Muertos is a Mexican tradition full of history and cultural significance that is celebrated from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2.

By Brittany Mendez and Alejandra Martinez

Día de los Muertos has been celebrated for thousands of years, tracing back to indigenous tribes in Mexico. The key purpose of the holiday is to celebrate loved ones who have passed away. ORANGE took photos at some of the city’s celebrations that took place this month at the University of Texas at Austin and across town.


Starting on Oct. 29, the Mexic-Arte Museum hosted an all-day celebration called Viva la Vida which  translates to “Live the Life.” The community united for the parade at Fifth Street and marched to Congress Avenue. In the parade there was moving sculptures, live puppets, catrina and many floats.

To give some context, La Catrina is a symbol that stems from Mexican political cartoonist, José Guadalupe Posada’s caricatures of “La Calavera Garbancera.” This figure is  modernly known as the Catrina. Posada’s creation  symbolized the mocking by  members of  the privileged class who ignored their roots at the time of the early 1900s. Today, it used as a symbol to mock and make fun of death and has appeared on  dozens of shared Facebook videos about  face painting, catrina-style.

The catrinas and  the rest of the parade drew in a massive crowd. The crowd headed to Brazos garage after the parade, where they held a free live portion of the event featuring craft and knick-knack vendors, face painting, altars and costume contests.

It was widely recognized  at the event that Día de los Muertos is not just a holiday but a Mexican tradition that believes death is a part of life and there is no need to be afraid.  


Nov. 1 commenced the Día de los Muertos celebration and Campus Events + Entertainment Mexican American Culture Committee (MACC) chose to celebrate it with six DIY activity booths, a community altar and Mexican traditional food.

The event was held at UT’s Student Activity Center Ballroom. All around there was an evident presence of Cempazuchil or Marigolds, the traditional Dia de los Muertos flower that is believed to guide the spirits back to Earth. The flowers surrounded MACC’s community altar along with photos of students such as Haruka Weiser and famous Latin figures like Cesar Chavez, Selena and Celia Cruz.

This student-ran event also included  six different stations to encourage students to participate and learn about the culture in order to get food. The DIY activities included face-painting, bracelet making, tissue paper marigolds, and balloon Calaveras. Students learned about the origins of  the Mexican holiday and enjoyed the rest of the event eating delicious tamales and pan de muerto, a roll made with flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, and decorated with sugar.


Día de los Muertos is a time for people to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died and The Eta Alpha Chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta (UT Betas) had their 18th annual event at UT’s main mall.

The purpose of this event was to bring cultural awareness to the Austin community about the holiday and to provide a safe place where people can celebrate life and honor their deceased loved ones.  They celebrated with live performances such as Aztec Dancers and UT Mariachi, great food and an altar-decorating contest.

Usually ofrendas or altars are made weeks in advance to honor those who have died and welcome them to safe journey home but at the event UT Betas’ added a twist by giving students the opportunity to contribute to the altars and make something beautiful that was representative of those who have departed.  

UT Betas’ event was the modern day celebration of the holiday, complete with costumes, face painting, altars and other cultural festivities.

As the Latin population grows in Austin, more and more Latin traditions begin to find their place  within this city’s culture. At all three of the described events, there were  different versions of honoring the dead. Whether these versions included lively-performances, catrinas elegantly walking up and down the street, altars or Mexican tamales, they all served the same purpose. The goal for Día de los Muertos is to pay respects to loved ones, honor their lives, and acknowledge the fragility of life.  For those who missed this year’s events, there will be more in the year to follow and in the meantime, enjoy the great photos.


At Fiesta Gardens the fourth annual Dia De Los Muertos  Music Festival took place with acts such as Metalachi, Tiarra girls, the Austin Samba School and Ozomatli. With the music being the center of this event the most anticipated act, the mariachi infused metal band, Metalachi brought a certain connection towards the crowd due to vocally sharing experiences of being and growing up Mexican-American on stage. Across the festival grounds you could as well find children hitting piñatas resembling Catrinas, an altar decorating contest, and vendors selling foods familiar to the culture. This festival brought the celebration and traditions of this day to a variety of individuals young and old.