The Corpus Christi Dia de los Muertos Street Festival was started in 2008 when Belinda Edwards (Electra Art*Axis Tattoo) told her friend and neighbor, Michelle Smythe (K Space Contemporary) that she wanted to throw a Dia de los Muertos Party. Michelle said, “Let’s do it!” and they got started on the plans. The first event was contained on one block of Starr Street, had around 35 art vendors, one stage with a DJ and one band, and about 600 guests. The evening was beautiful and the festival was a hit.
Now in our sixth year, El Dia de los Muertos Street Festival has grown to almost 18000 in attendance. We have expanded to include two blocks of Starr Street and two blocks of Mesquite. There are now 2 stages: one for popular latin-influenced music and one for cultural performances. We have added a Kids’ Corner with craft activities, games, and this year, a rock-climbing wall. Student Art Associations from TAMUCC, Del Mar College and TAMUK participate in the event. And we have an enormous Hecho-a-Mano Art Expo featuring many Dia de los Muertos themed craft items, jewelry, and artworks by over 75 vendors.
Background – Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) or the Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday in Mexico when deceased friends and family members are remembered and celebrated. It is a poignant time, both solemn and joyous, with colorful artistic traditions, pageantry, and whimsy despite the sobering subject. Dia de los Muertos is a joyful remembrance in which death is recognized as a natural part of the cycle of life.
In the arts, everyday life is represented in skeletal form. A common symbol of Dia de los Muertos is the skull or “calavera” often represented in masks, candy, and other curios. Traditional activities include making sugar skulls decorated with brightly colored icing, papel picaco (cut paper banners) and paper mache’ masks and figures. Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items, like tattoos, dolls, sugar skulls or jewelry, can bring good luck.
Souls of the deceased return to visit loved ones on the days of October 31-November 2. In preparation for the reunion, families create altars to honor the deceased with ofrendas (offerings) of yellow marigolds, memorabilia, photos, favorite foods, beverages and trinkets of the departed. Religious and spiritual symbols, like the Christian Cross and Virgin Mary often adorn altars, as well.
Because it is a national holiday in Mexico, schools and government offices close, and the streets are decorated. People, young and old alike, participate in the festivities: parades, dancing in the town square, and processions to the cemetery. At the cemetery, the spirits are honored with music, dancing, poetry and stories. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as people recall funny events and stories about the departed. In some areas of Mexico, they picnic or even sleep at the gravesite.
This celebration has gone on for centuries in Mexico. By presenting the Dia de los Muertos festival and educational programming, we are providing an opportunity for people to learn about this rich cultural tradition of Mexico, to create a connection to our past, and to honor and celebrate the deceased.
Our DDLM Festival assists with cultural tourism by drawing artists, vendors, musicians, and festival-goers to Corpus Christi and to the downtown area. To enhance our DDLM programming, K Space Contemporary has added cultural art workshops during the month of October and a fine art exhibition. During November, a thematically associated exhibition will be displayed in the main gallery, including the Extravagancia de Piñatas, a contest and exhibition of piñatas constructed by area K-12 schools (groups/art classes/art clubs). These student groups compete for cash awards for classroom supplies.
The 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival will be held Saturday, November 1, 3 pm to midnight! The festival is held in the 400-500 blocks of Starr and 500-700 blocks of Mesquite Streets in downtown Corpus Christi. Everyone is encouraged to wear a costume. The event includes live music, Mariachis, Folklorico dancers, Hecho a Mano Art Expo, Kids’ Activities, community altar, food, drinks and more. Texas A & M University Art Department’s “Hold Steady Iron Pouring Crew” will be on hand offering visitors a chance to create their own miniature iron sculpture while the Printmaking Department will be print customized t-shirts. A community altar is located inside K Space Contemporary.
Many of Corpus Christi’s favorite artists will be on hand selling their work and El Dia de los Muertos themed items.
The Hecho a Mano Art Expo features over 75 artists offering everything from jewelry to sculpture to all kinds of Dia de los Muertos related trinkets. Those that are interested in being a vendor will find guidelines and registration information under “Vendor Information” on this website.
We are accepting sponsors and seeking volunteers. Sponsorship information is available at www.diadelosmuertoscc.com. Anyone interested in volunteering may call (361)887-6834.
Dia de los Muertos Street Festival is coordinated by the Electra Art*Axis Tattoo, K Space Contemporary, Corpus Christi Downtown Management District, and House of Rock. Proceeds from the event benefit K Space Contemporary, a 501 (C) 3 non-profit arts organization.