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Marching for los muertos

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Art Society, Spanish students, Ballet Folklorico join Viva la Vida parade 

Spanish teacher and Ballet Folklorico adviser Juana Gun. Photo by Gregory James.

McCallum students gathered together in the heart of downtown Austin Saturday; prepared to be a part of the 34th annual Viva la Vida parade and festival. The procession gathered at Fifth Street and Waller Creek, then marched to Fourth and Congress, where a festival with market booths, lively music, and ornate memorials done for deceased relatives and ancestors. The theme of this year’s festival was Frida Kahlo, celebrating her 110th birthday. Many in the procession and in the crowds dressed like the famous artist and her husband, Diego Rivera.

The Viva La Vida parade honors the dead, and celebrates Mexican culture within Texas and internationally. The parade included several large puppets and skull artwork (calveras) associated with Dia de Los Muertos, the mexican tradition that commemorates those who have departed. After the parade, vendors at the end of the route sold traditional Hispanic food, artwork, and the classic marigolds of the Day of the Dead, which is said to guide spirits using their vibrant colors and scent.

Art Society members, Spanish students, and Ballet Folklorio members arrived at McCallum earlier that morning, painting each others faces and eating breakfast in Ms. Gun’s room. Spanish teacher and Ballet Folklorico adviser Juana Gun has attended the event for the past 17 years with students in her Spanish classes and in Ballet Folklorico. “Each year the event gets better, and more people come.” Gun said. “It is always the highlight of my year.”

Sophomore Skye Hospod came to McCallum with other members of Art Society, prepared to paint the faces of their peers to look like Catrinas—an iconic symbol of Dia De Los Muertos from the 1910s, depicting a skeleton lady in high society clothing and an ornate, floral hat. The illustration intending to depict the idea that we’re all equal in death. Soon after helping paint five faces, Hospod had her face painted, dressed in the ornate and layered dresses provided by Ms. Gun, and joined in the festivities.

Afterwards, Hospod spoke about her experience. “The entire festival was so lively,” Hospod said. “All types of people gathered in a joyful way to celebrate a beautiful and passionate culture.” When asked what her favorite part was, she said “the costumes were amazing: some [were] simple, others very elaborate with detailed face painting and beautiful head dresses made of feathers.”

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