Dia de los Muertos & Community Altars

Sep. 13, 2019

Sep. 13, 2019 @ 10:00 am Nov. 24, 2019 @ 5:00 pm

Mexic-Arte Museum

419 Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78701 United States
+ Google Map
(512) 480-9373


This year marks the 36th Annual Día de Los Muertos & Community Altars Exhibition which incorporates community ofrendas (altars), el Día de Los Muertos inspired art from the Museum’s permanent collection, a section dedicated to Mexican Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, mojigangas (large sculptures) from the Museum’s Viva la Vida Parade & Festival, and an art installation by our Artists in Residence Yocelyn Riojas and Jerry Silguero to raise awareness about immigration issues in the Borderlands.

Día de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead is an ancient, Mexican and Mexican American religious holiday, with a historically rich tradition that integrates pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is often celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd (dates vary by region). For many Latin American countries, it is a time to honor and greet the departed as they make their journey back to be with the living each year. These days are a time for families and friends to gather in celebration of life and death. The circle of life, rather than loss and sorrow, is embraced. 

Community Ofrendas

This year’s ofrendas are dedicated to deceased loved ones created by artists and community groups in the styles of traditional regional Mexico and contemporary interpretations. The Mexic-Arte Museum and members of the community created an altar dedicated to the victims of the recent tragedy in El Paso, Texas in hopes to raise awareness in order to stop violence and work for change. The Museum invited guests from the local community to add photos, messages, and symbolic items to an “Ofrenda a Nuestra Comunidad Internacional de El Paso” to commemorate the lost lives. Other community altars include dedications to Rudy Mendez (Founder and Director of Ballet East), Sam Coronado (Co-Founder of Mexic-Arte Museum), Fernando Gomez Jr. (January 1922 – October 24, 1944) and other Mexican Americans who lost their lives fighting in the Pacific War (1941-1945) of World War II, Celso Pińa, Accordion Rebel Pan-Latin Music Pioneer, and others.

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of Mexican Revolutionary leader, Emiliano Zapata’s death. Zapata was the leader of the peasant revolution in the state of Morelos, and served as the inspiration for the agrarian movement called Zapatismo. The Museum will feature photographs from the archive of Agustín Victor Casasola (1874-1938), who gained recognition for his political photographs chronicling the Mexican Revolution; his photographs became some of the most iconic depictions of that era.


Mexic-Arte Museum will be exhibiting a selection of mojigangas from the annual Viva la Vida Parade. Mojigangas are part of the tradition of cartonería, which is the making of three-dimensional sculptures with papier-mâché. The Spanish brought figures of cardboard, paper, and cloth to Mexico around 1600. During this time period, the dancing “mojigangas” were used to evoke joy during important religious pilgrimages. They were also fashioned as representations of saints and kings, though several public figures were also common. The tradition of the dances spread throughout Mexico and took on different manifestations according to the style of the local artisans and the materials available to them. Now, they are used as a form of celebration and performance during festivities such as Día de Los Muertos, El Dia de la Independencia, and Carnaval. The making of the giant puppets is made up of different parts. These include structural building for the interior body frame, piñata for the head, paper maché for the hands and other body parts, sewing for the costumes, and paint for the face. Over the years, the Mexic-Arte Museum commissioned artists to create various mojigangas for Austin’s Viva la Vida Parade & Festival.

About our Artists in Residence

Multi-disciplinary artists and educators, Yocelyn Riojas and Jerry Silguero have partnered with local Texas nonprofit Raices to raise awareness about conditions in immigrant detention centers. This year they will be taking part in Mexic-Arte Museum’s Artist in Residence Education Program to continue the conversation around the theme of Borderlands. Their residency consists of a community involved workshop series, a final float or dynamic sculpture piece for the Viva la Vida Parade, and an audio-visual installation detailing the journey of a child going through the immigrant detention process as a part of the Community Ofrendas Exhibit.

Installation Images