Mexic-Arte Museum’s Viva La Vida Fest is Austin’s largest and longest-running Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. The free festival, Saturday, Oct. 27, features a Grand Procession at noon, an Education Pavilion with hands-on art activities and artist demos, and a celebration with traditional foods, local artist and retail booths, a low-rider exhibition, live music and performances throughout the day until 6 p.m. on 100-200 block E. 4th Street.
In conjunction, Mexic-Arte Museum presents “Viva la Vida: Celebrating 35 Years of Mexic-Arte Museum’s Día de los Muertos,” through Nov. 25, 2018. The exhibition presents the Museum’s decades-long quest to share and expand the public’s knowledge about Day of the Dead. Día de los Muertos is a holiday with a historically rich tradition that integrates pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is celebrated in Mexico on November 1-2 in connection with the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. It is a time to honor and greet the departed as the spirits make their journey back from Mictlan (the underworld) to be with the living each year. Día de los Muertos is a time for families and friends to gather in celebration—a time when the cycle of life and death, rather than loss and sorrow, are embraced.
While living in Mexico in 1979 and having interest in Mexican traditions, Mexic-Arte Museum Founders Sylvia Orozco and Pio Pulido visited San Andres Mixquic, a small community on the southeast edge of Mexico City to celebrate Día de los Muertos. These experiences later inspired the first Día de los Muertos exhibit, La Muerte Vive, and celebration in Austin, Texas in 1984 at the Arts Warehouse.
The Museum has presented exhibitions, performances, street festivals, videos, murals, installations, processions, publications, and other cultural manifestations for decades. During this time, a marvelous transformation has occurred—what was historically a religious holiday has become an expressive commemoration of family and a celebration of Mexican and Mexican American life and culture.
For almost two generations, Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged communal sharing of what were once private expressions of faith; and artists started creating altars as part of art exhibits. Mindful of the day’s historical-religious roots, Mexic-Arte Museum helped transform the celebration by mixing popular with traditional materials, sacred with secular objects, personal with social issues, and popular art with contemporary expressions. The underlying Mexican sense of commitment to honor the deceased has remained but the public expression has evolved into a voice for the Latinx community. Images of ofrendas created by artists, community, and Museum staff over the years are assembled in a projection in the exhibit.
This year with sadness and gratitude, the Museum commemorates the late Pio Pulido, founder of the Museum, who passed away on July 12, 2018. His energy will continue in his art, in the memories he leaves, and the Mexic-Arte Museum that he helped build. Other altars pay tribute to the following: Austin Lowrider family members who participated in the first Día de los Muertos processions, Francisco Gabilondo Soler, Cri-Cri: El Grillito Cantor, a Mexican composer and performer of children’s songs built by Alina Flores and friends of the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin, as well as the hundred-plus Mayan peoples of Guatemala whose lives were taken with the eruption of the volcano earlier this year; Felipe Linares and Carmen Caballero, cartoneria artists who immortalized skeletons into beautiful sculptural forms.