Memphis groups celebrate Dia de los Muertos

By Published: November 01, 2018 11:04 AM CT

Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday. The title translates into "Day of the Dead."

"It's called 'Day of the Dead,'" said Karen Febles, a Memphian, who was born and raised in Mexico. 'It's more 'the celebration of the deceased.' We celebrate the life of those that were once with us."

In Yucatán, where Febles is from, locals call the holiday "Hanal Pixán." In Mayan, Febles said the phrase roughly translates into "the day the souls come and eat with us."

Febles attended the second Dia de los Muertos parade and festival hosted by Cazateatro, a bilingual theatre organization, and the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. The parade, held Saturday, Oct. 27, began in the morning at Overton Square and ended with an afternoon celebration at the museum. 

The museum had free admission for the day and art-making activities inside, as well as an educational film playing about Dia de los Muertos. 

Outside the museum, there were food trucks, organization information tables, a DJ and performers. Performances included Cazateatro, Danza Azteca Quetzalcoatl de Memphis, Stax Music Academy, Herencia Hispana, Los Matachines, Mariachi Guadalajara, Los Viejitos and Alexis White.

There was also a Catrina/Catrin costume contest. They are elegantly dressed skeletons. 

For $5, attendees could get a sugar skull face painting. Children present donned traditional Mexican clothing, as well as tutus and tiaras and Spiderman, Captain America and Harry Potter costumes.

Shelby County Schools was an event sponsor. School groups came from as far away as Tupelo, Mississippi, for the event.

At least 23 different groups participated in the parade, up from 15 the first year.

"After the movie 'Coco,' a lot of people were interested in Dia de Los Muertos," said Monica Sanchez, Cazateatro's artistic director. 

The mission of Cazateatro, is to be a bridge between cultures, through the arts and through theater, according to Sanchez. The festival is one of the ways the organization does that. 

"This is a community event, not just the Latino or Hispanic community," she said. "It's for the community in Shelby County, DeSoto County and West Memphis. The only requirement is to want to learn about your neighbors."

"It's a great community festival and a great way to engage the community in the Brooks," said Kathy Dumlao, the museum's director of education and interpretation.

There are more local ways to celebrate and learn about Dia de los Muertos in Memphis. 

From 1-7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, Danza Quetzalcoatl is hosting a free event at El Mercadito de Memphis, 3766 Ridgeway Road. 

That event will feature more community altars for deceased loved ones, and attendees will get to see different ways the different regions of Mexico celebrate the holiday. 

It is set to include an art exhibition, funny poetry for the dead, an exhibition of Aztec dogs, a history of the significance of Marigolds to the holiday, face painting, traditional food served during the holiday, local bands (including Mariachi) and Aztec dance. 


Dia de los Muertos Karen Febles Mexico Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Cazateatro
Elle Perry

Elle Perry

Elle Perry covers arts and culture and other news for the Daily Memphian. She is a native of Memphis and a two-time graduate of the University of Memphis. Elle previously worked for the Memphis Business Journal and has written for publications including The Memphis Flyer and High Ground News.

Comment On This Story

Email Editions

Sign up for our morning and evening editions, plus breaking news.