Día de los Muertos Celebrates Community
by Yadhira Lozano
The Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center is a grass-roots community event that showcases various aspects of the Mexican-American cultural aesthetic through music, dance, food, art and altares. The event takes place across the Guadalupe’s 2-block campus on San Antonio’s historic westside.
Visitors begin their journey by viewing the community altars inside the Galería Guadalupe. Each altar was created by a community group or family. Several groups participate each year while a few new families were added to this year’s exhibition. In addition, the Guadalupe created a Community Altar for those that wished to include a photo or a written dedication to a loved one who has passed. On the evening of the Celebration, visitors took time to write out a note and place it on the altar creating a new look to the altar with each card. One patron brought a photo of her departed husband but also his favorite snacks and drink to add. Other long-time supporters include the Eye Bank who invited their network of families to bring photos. One family brought a plate of enchiladas while a daughter brought a dessert offering to place next to a photo of her departed mother. Emotions were present in the Galería from sadness from those remembering their loved ones and happiness from reliving wonderful memories. Sponsors of the altar exhibition include Louis Escareño, Marisol Perez, Sonia Rodriguez, Jorge & Victoria Herrera, and our good friends at Twang.
The festival continued outdoors in the Guadalupanita Placita with live mariachis and ballet folklorico performances by the Guadalupe Academy students. The Dance Academy performed a special Día de los Muertos presentation that tells the story of the holiday and how it is celebrated. Some of the dancers even appeared on stilts and posed for photos with the crowd. At various booths around the courtyard were hands-on activities such as sugar-skull decorating, mask-making, face painting, and a papel picado workshop. Both young and old were invited to participate and learn how to incorporate the tradition in their own homes.
Further down the block, in the Progreso Building, was an elaborate altar display by artist David Zamora Casas who dedicated an altar to children who have passed away and another to voter rights advocate Willie Velasquez who began the Southwest Voter Education Project in this very building. In conjunction, author Barbara Renaud Gonzalez held a book launch and signing of Dear San Antonio, I’m Gone but not Lost: Letters to the world from your voting rights hero Willie Velasquez on the occasion of his rebirth. 1944-1988-2018. Fans of her work packed into the room surrounded by flowers, religious icons, photos of Velasquez, and colorful drapery that created a special contemplative space for the event.
The altares in the Galería and the Progreso building stayed up past the event date to welcome visitors in the following weeks. The last day to view the Galería altars is Friday, December 7 while Renaud Gonzalez and Casas will be hosting a closing event on Tuesday, November 20.