Viva la Vida

Lauren Giudice

Marigolds, art displays and hundreds of people in skeleton costumes celebrated Día de los Muertos at the Mexic-Arte Museum’s 27th annual Viva la Vida Fest, Austin’s largest and longest-running Day of the Dead festival.

El Día de los Muertos is an annual tradition in Latin American culture to celebrate lost loved ones. The theme of this year’s event was Mexican Independence and Revolution, which honors the bicentennial of the beginning of the Mexican independence movement and centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Cooking demonstrations by Texas chefs Iliana de la Vega and Ernesto Torrealba gave viewers a taste of traditional Mexican cuisine. The chefs created a menu to commemorate the anniversaries of Mexican Independence and Revolution, which included a dish of chiles covered in a cream sauce.

The street festival featured art booths, Mexican food and musical performances. The Karina Nistal Band, a Latin-fusion group, headlined the festival.

Many of the costumed attendees participated in the grand procession, which included large-scale paper mache puppets depicting heroes of the Revolution, such as Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.

Robert Mendez, who dressed up as a revolutionary soldier for the grand procession, said the event was a great way for him to celebrate his culture and to have fun.

“Being here really makes me feel closer to my culture. I brought my kids so they could understand their heritage,” Mendez said. “The different musicians also bring back so many memories from my childhood.”

The grand procession moved from Saltillo Plaza in East Austin to Fifth Street and Congress Avenue. Costumed festival attendees biked, walked, danced and rode floats throughout the route.

“This is the only festival in Austin that feels like a real street party like other cities have,” said jewelry vendor Kim Soliz. “There is a real neighborhood-type feel to it.”