Austin to kick off citywide Day of the Dead celebrations

Short documentary features controversial folk saint La Santa Muerte; a new Tejano Idol winner will be crowned.


Check out Austin’s best cultural art events happening in October.

When Mayor Steve Adler announces a citywide Día de los Muertos celebration next 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.

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.

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

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How a controversial unofficial saint has gained a Texas following

The Catholic Church has condemned it. Some people think it’s a cult. But the controversial Mexican folk saint La Santa Muerte, or Holy Death, has gained a rising presence in some Texas communities.

A new short documentary released by Texas Folklife explores the complicated popularity of the unofficial saint who personifies death and has become the go-to saint to ask for unsaintly requests. The film features perspectives from devotees, scholars, psychologists, faith healers and religious leaders.

“The film tackles an interesting and fascinating cultural phenomenon and tries to get at the underlying reason for its emergence in today’s world and its meaning in Texas,” said Texas Folklife Executive Director Charlie Lockwood.

“La Santa Muerte: A Folk Saint in Texas” will premiere at 7 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Studio Theater (805 E. Seventh St.) on Oct. 3. A panel discussion with religious studies scholar Andrew Chesnut and the filmmakers will follow the free screening. Watch a trailer for the film at

RELATED: Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by honoring Austin muralist

“Tejano Idol” competition heats up

What will Tejano music sound like in the future? While the genre hasn’t enjoyed the mainstream success it once did, organizations like the Austin Tejano Music Coalition are ensuring that the music not only stays alive but thrives with a new generation of talent and fans.

In 2011, the coalition launched an ambitious project to help infuse the Tejano music scene with the energy it needed. Now, its annual “Tejano Idol” singing competition has grown in popularity, propelling several of the contest’s winners and alumni into music careers.

On Oct. 1, a new batch of 16 artists hoping to shake up Tejano music will perform at the “Tejano Idol” finale where a new winner will be crowned. The musical showcase, hosted by Grammy winner David Farias (formerly of Tejano group Tropa F), will begin at 2 p.m. at the H&H Ballroom (4404 Brandt Road). It’s a good chance to see where Tejano music is headed.

Celebrity judges include Mark Martinez of Freddy Records, Michelle Garcia of Hacienda Records, Joe Garcia, owner of KOKE 1600 AM radio, and Felix Mendoza of the Tejano Music Awards Committee. The Tejano Idol winner will receive $1,000 plus a recording with Freddy Records, second place gets $500 plus a recording with Hacienda Records and third place receives $250.

Presale tickets are $10 and $20 at the door. For more information, visit


Cultura en Austin is a monthly column highlighting Latino-related cultural events in Austin. Look for it on the last Friday of the month.

Nancy Flores grew up in the Texas border town of Eagle Pass and has been covering Latino culture for the American-Statesman and Austin360 since 2011. Before that, she covered Latino issues as a journalist in Mexico City. Send tips or suggestions to

You can find more news about Latino cultural art happenings on the Cultura en Austin blog at

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