Día de los Muertos in San Antonio

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, takes place on November 2 every year. In some communities, celebrations begin on November 1 for Día de los Inocentes, a day to honor children and infants who have passed away. Originating in Mexico, the holidays are a blending of Aztec and Catholic traditions dating back for centuries.

Here in San Antonio, the holiday’s popularity is growing tremendously, with calavera- and catrina-themed items being sold at H-E-B and many other stores, for example. My hope is that as Día de los Muertos becomes mainstream, more people will understand the true meaning of the holiday. Unlike Halloween, Día de los Muertos is not meant to be spooky or scary. It is a time to celebrate our loved ones who have passed on. One of the ways we do that is by creating altars decorated with pictures and personal items of the dead. Other symbols of the holiday include marigolds, papel picado, incense, candles, pan de muerto, and sugar skulls. Here’s a post that explains how to make your own altar at home. And if you’re looking to get some Día de los Muertos themed items, check out Dawn’s post on local shops.

Before the actual holiday, several groups in San Antonio are hosting hands-on workshops to learn more about Día de los Muertos crafts and traditions. The list below includes workshops as well as community celebrations taking place through early November. 

Share in the comments any events we might have missed!

October 7–November 5

Time Before Memory at the Institute of Texan Cultures—The 2017 El Dia de los Muertos ofrenda incorporates elements of Christian and Aztec traditions in an installation that spans from the museum’s entrance hall through the lower gallery. The imagery and decoration will invoke the grand altars of Mexico, scenes of decorated cemeteries, and smaller home altars. Per custom, the altars will incorporate images of family members who have passed away, along with the accoutrements of the holiday, such as incense, grain, water, and candles. Free with museum admission.

Saturday, October 14

Second Saturday: Día de los Muertos Demos, 10:00 A.M.–12:00 P.M., and Paper Flower Workshop, 12:30–2:30 P.M. at Rinconcito de Esperanza—Demos on Day of the Dead traditions: altar making, sugar skulls, and papel picado! After these demos, join a paper flower workshop with Guadalupe Segura. Participants will learn how to make paper marigolds (cempazuchitl) that can be used for Day of the Dead. FREE!

Wednesday, October 18

Candy Skull Decorating Workshop, 6:00 P.M. at Mariolo Stone Oak—For adults and kids. Text (210) 383-9180 to sign up. Registration is $35 per person; $45 per person includes Taco Time.

Saturday, October 21

Papel Picado Workshop, 11:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M. at Esperanza Peace & Justice Center—Angie Merla will lead a workshop where participants will learn about the material needed to create papel picado, how to create their own patterns/work with patterns, and take home a finished product. Workshop materials will be provided. If you’d like to take notes, please bring a notebook. FREE! (donations are always appreciated)

Friday, October 27

Cultural Creations: DIY Mini Altars, 6:00–8:00 P.M. at Feliz Modern—Make San Antonio hosts Feliz Modern’s first Cultural Creations workshop in honor of Día de los Muertos. Materials will be provided to create a mini altar; you simply bring a picture of your loved one and any other small mementos to adorn your altar. Snacks and drinks will be provided. For each purchase, Make San Antonio will donate one Día de los Muertos mini altar kit to a local school’s art club. Registration is $25 per person.

Saturday, October 28

Kids’ Sugar Skull Workshop, 10:00–11:30 A.M. at Pico de Gallo Restaurant—Join Chef Cariño Cortez in learning more about the Día de los Muertos holiday. Kids ages 3 and up will decorate their own sugar skull to take home and learn more about the holiday through storytelling while they get to taste and take home their own pan de muerto pastry. Registration is $25 per child.

Día de los Muertos Celebration, 12:00–6:00 P.M. at Plaza Guadalupe —Honor the lives and legacy of the dearly departed. Participate in art-making workshops, face-painting, a peace and remembrance procession, and view community altars while enjoying pan de muerto y chocolate. Performances by Grupo Animo youth theatre ensemble, Mariachi Academy, and Guadalupe Dance Academy and Company. The peace and remembrance procession will take place to and from the Plaza and Galería. Arts and crafts workshops will be 2:00–4:00 P.M., live performances from 4:00–6:00 P.M. Altar exhibition open October 28–November 9. FREE!

Photo from Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Facebook page

Día de los Muertos Festival, 5:00–10:00 P.M. at Downtown New Braunfels—This cultural event will feature local food, drinks, arts & crafts, an ofrenda (offering space) for honoring the lives of loved ones passed, vendor booths, shopping, and live entertainment. Music lineup features Mariachis, Folklorico dancers, and Tejano sensations Sunny Sauceda and Crystal Garza. FREE!

October 28–29

Día de los Muertos Celebration at Historic Market Square—Join processions of catrinas, puppets, and drummers through Market Square with Las Monas Dance Troupe. Small procession on Saturday at 4:30 P.M., and large procession on Sunday at 1:00 P.M. A Day of the Day exhibit and altar will also be in display. FREE!

Día de los Muertos, Saturday at 10:00 A.M.–11:00 P.M. and Sunday at 12:00–10:00 P.M. at La Villita Historic Arts Village—A two-day, free, family-friendly event that combines traditional culture with the best in contemporary Latino music. Live music at Arneson River Theatre, community altar exhibition, original Day of the Dead art, living altar, a dance, drum and puppet procession, live poetry, and more! FREE!

Sunday, October 29

Family Art Play: Halloween/Día de los Muertos Celebration, 1:00–4:00 P.M. at McNay Art Museum—Send good wishes to the spirits of the afterlife this Halloween/Day of the Dead. Decorate an altar with tissue-paper marigolds, enjoy tasty pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and view The Book of Life (2014) at 2:00 P.M. Film description: Torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, Manolo embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds, where he must face his greatest fears (English, 95 minutes, PG). Free with museum admission.

Wednesday, November 1

Día de los Muertos Community Celebration, 4:00–10:00 P.M. at Rinconcito de Esperanza—Celebrate deceased familia, friends, and ancestors with the community. There will be displays of community altars, live music, face painting for children, and a procession through the neighborhood. The evening will highlight readings of literary ofrendas to remember our dead, and calavera poems that poke fun at the living and their untimely encounters with La Muerte or La CatrinaDuring the event everyone will be able to enjoy hot chocolate, tamales, and the traditional pan de muerto. The event is free, but donations are always appreciated.

November 1–2

Día de los Muertos, Wednesday, 4:00–7:00 P.M., and Thursday, 5:00–9:00 P.M., at the Historic Pearl—The Pearl grounds will be transformed to reflect traditions of the Mexican holiday, which pays homage to deceased family and friends. Altars by local artists, customary flowers, installations, and papel picado unique to Día de los Muertos will be found throughout the campus, including ofrendas, live mariachi music, a formal procession, and sugar skull making. The first day focuses on children’s workshops and performances. Kids can enjoy calavera face-painting, crafts, and milkshakes. On stage, literary artist Carmen Tafolla will read and serve as emcee. Mexican musical performers include Los Inocentes and Conjunto Taller. Finally, “La Catrina de Mexico” Bertha Sandoval will speak about the rich Mexican tradition at Hotel Emma library. On the second day at 6:00 P.M., the community at large is invited to join in a formal procession around the Pearl campus. The live music lineup consists of the all-female mariachi group Las Coronelas, followed by San Antonio native and Latin roots rocker Patricia Vonne. Complimentary paletas—frozen treats authentic to San Antonio—will also be available courtesy of La Paleteria, and pan de muerto will be for sale by local favorite Mexican bakery Panifico. All guests are encouraged to bring a photo or memento and participate in the community altars on both days. FREE!

Thursday, November 2

Día de los Muertos Barrio Procession and Fandango, 6:00 P.M. at San Anto Cultural Arts—It is San Anto Cultural Arts’ tradition to have a barrio procession to the Peace and Remembrance mural and add the name of a community member who was lost to violence. Honor our muertitos with a community altar, barrio procession, comida, music, and dance. Face-painting, free art workshops, y mas! Bring a photo of your muertitos or something to honor them for the community altar. FREE! 

November 2–4

Muertitos Fest 2017: Tierra y Libertad at SAY Sí—Muertitos Fest, one of San Antonio’s most comprehensive Día de los Muertos celebrations, provides an educational context to this important holiday, with three days of unique cultural happenings including: an exhibition of student Día de los Muertos art, notable folk art exhibits, altars to honor the departed, family folk art workshops, food booths, an artisan mercado, and live multidisciplinary cultural performances. Tickets for the Opening Night Fiesta are $35 pre-sale or $40 at the door. Muertitos Fest First Friday on November 3 and Family Day on Saturday, November 4 are FREE!

Heather was born and raised in San Antonio and became a mom in 2013 and again in 2018. She never imagined she'd be raising two sons but is grateful for the opportunity! Heather enjoys the outdoors and even mowing her own lawn. She and her husband Santiago look forward to raising two feminist boys who will hopefully be better at Spanish than she is. Her professional experience since graduating from Tufts University with a degree in Art History includes working for a variety of arts and cultural nonprofit organizations, from grassroots to governmental. She spent a few years as a stay at home parent and is easing her way back into the workforce. Her dream job would be to work for Sesame Workshop, or President of the United States. In the meantime, Heather enjoys filling her family's weekends with the diversity San Antonio has to offer. Favorite Restaurant: La Tuna Favorite Landmark: Hemisfair Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Breakfast tacos