Austin to celebrate Día de los Muertos across city

5:55 p.m Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017 Local
Juan Contreras, 9, lines up for the Día de los Muertos parade at the Viva La Vida Festival in downtown Austin in 2016. Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead event, produced by the Mexic-Arte Museum, also featured a street festival with artist vendors, live music, food trucks, art activities and community altars. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In addition to signature events such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest, Austin hopes to be known for its Day of the Dead festivities.

On Wednesday, Mayor Steve Adler announced plans for a citywide Día de los Muertos celebration aimed at boosting the visibility of the city’s diverse arts, increasing tourism and preserving Austin’s Hispanic heritage.

Austin Día de los Muertos from Saturday through Nov. 4 will highlight existing annual events along with new ones under one marketing campaign.

“We don’t have a Latino-themed citywide celebration,” said Lesly Reynaga, executive director of Austin Día de los Muertos. “We believe that with the support of the city we can make that happen.”

The Cultural Arts Division of the Economic Development Department has invested about $50,000 to promote the celebration and help expand its reach beyond downtown. Adler will serve as honorary chairman of the Día de los Muertos Committee.

“We’re especially proud (to support the events) that tell the unique stories and share the traditions of communities who have really rooted themselves in the formation and identity of Austin,” said Meghan Wells, manager of the city’s Cultural Arts Division.

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The announcement signals a momentous step forward for many community leaders who for at least five years have worked toward a citywide Day of the Dead event that they hope can be as successful as San Antonio’s Fiesta or New Orleans’ Mardi Gras.

Some of Austin’s Day of the Dead events 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 Oct. 28 on Fifth Street and ends at the festival on Fourth Street and Congress Avenue. Festivalgoers can expect art activities, traditional Mexican food, live music and a low-rider exhibit.

On Saturday, the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center will host its Día de los Muertos festival starting at 3 p.m. The event’s accordion music theme will honor the late Anthony Quinn Ortiz, Jr., a young Austin accordionist who died this year. Children’s activities will include sugar skull decorating and face painting. Altars also will be on display inside and outside of the center. Eva Ybarra y su Conjunto, who recently received a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment of the Arts, will headline the festival.

New events this year include several live music shows at venues in the Red River Cultural District, as well as a mariachi festival at the Austin360 Amphitheater. For a complete list of events across the city, visit austindayofthedead.com.

“Few U.S. cities celebrate Día de los Muertos the way that Austin, Texas, does,” Adler said. “I’m very proud of that. It unites diverse communities in our city, fosters inclusion and appeals across ethnic and racial lines.”

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