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Calaca Festival builds on Day of the Dead

By Antonio De Jesús Aguado

In Mexico, at the beginning of November we all are calaveras (skulls). In this country the huesuda (image of death) is respected and even gets dolled up in showy dresses and big hats adorned with colored feathers as La Catrina, the skeletal image of the society lady made immortal by the artist José Guadalupe Posada. Muerte (death) is everywhere, even in Mexican popular sayings (dichos), such as No estaba muerto, andaba de parranda (He was not dead, he was partying) or El muerto al pozo y el vivo al gozo (The dead to the grave and the living to the party). This year in San Miguel, aside from the traditional offerings on November 1 and 2, a whole festival has been designed around the concept of La Calaca (skeleton).

The Calaca Festival

Klaudia Oliver, a publicist living in the city who has organized cultural events such as TEDx San Miguel de Allende, said that the idea of La Calaca Festival emerged from the current conditions of fear in the country. “This year I traveled a lot, and in all the countries I visited skulls are a reference to Mexico or to the Day of the Dead. For that reason, I believed that it was time to celebrate our culture and traditions through this event.” La Calaca “is a festival of participative art; we are trying to unite the existing events and also bring new attractions and integrate them into a program that is divided into four main events,” commented Oliver. As an important part of this festival, this year the Catrinas Parade from Rancho los Labradores will be integrated into La Calaca.

The Earth Harp

The Earth harp is the largest musical instrument in the world. Its strings measure more than 40 meters and can be connected to buildings, converting them into an essential part of the instrument. In San Miguel it will be connected to La Parroquia and Casa de Allende. According to the director of the Calaca Festival, the harp has traveled around the world, and this will be its first time in Mexico. The harp is played by Andrea Brook, a yoga trainer who organizes retirement in Bali and the US. Brook will play this instrument at the Jardín on November 1 through 3 from 7 to 8pm. Oliver said that the vibrations and sound emitted by the harp have healing effects, and for that reason also on November 2, in the morning, while Brook plays the harp there will be a yoga session under the strings at the Jardín. “The music is beautiful and infinitely inspiring,” said Oliver.

GIFF at La Calaca

The director of the Guanajuato International Film Festival, Sara Hoch, told Atención that they are supporting this event because “as sanmiguelenses we need to participate in everything and look for new activities to attract tourism and revenue to the city.” About this Festival Hoch commented, “It is an excellent project where we want to have a presence.” She said that among the holdings of the GIFF they have many short films that are appropriate to the Day of the Dead, “and we want to show them to sanmiguelenses and tourists.”

The short films will be shown at the Teatro Ángela Peralta on Friday, November 2, from 5–7pm. The program, according to Hoch, “is very funny; there are zombies, calacas and more. It is a projection of the international and national culture about death.” Among the short films will be Hasta los Huesos, directed by Mexican filmmaker René Castillo. “It presents the story of a man and his arrival to the world of the dead; little by little the character discovers that being dead is not that bad. I also love Sarah Jane, by American director Spencer Susser, a story about a teenager named Jimbo who only thinks about a girl, Sarah. It does not matter how difficult the path to Sara’s world can be; nothing—not even bad guys, violence, chaos or zombies—will stop him from getting into Sara’s world.” About 10 short films will be screened.

The Catrinas Parade

The annual Catrinas Parade started 11 years ago. “My father started it by inviting his friends to dress up as catrinas,” said Erick Cházaro, owner of Rancho Los Labradores. “The first year I remember there were just three catrinas walking through Centro and handing out candy to the children. In 2011, we had more than 250 catrinas and catrines,” said Erick. The stroll of the living dead caused such an impact in the city that a few years ago it was moved from Rancho los Labradores to downtown. The event has always been organized by Rancho los Labradores, but this year “we are merging it with the Festival because we want to support it, and also because we hope in the future to have all sanmiguelenses disguised as catrinas and catrines,” commented Cházaro.

This year, according to Cházaro, they did not organize a dinner in a specific restaurant because “we want bigger gross revenue in the city, so the participants will decide where to go for dinner after the parade. We also want to achieve our dream of having a festival just like in Venice, so the tourists will think of San Miguel as a place for visiting and being disguised, walking on the streets, visiting altars and having dinners in our restaurants,” said Cházaro. This year, on November 1, more than 250 catrinas and catrines will gather at Rosewood, where there will be a cocktail reception for all the participants and professional makeup artists will help them look the part. On November 1 at 8pm, the masqueraders will leave Rosewood and stroll along calle Aldama to the Jardín, where a contest will be held to select the best costumes. Onlookers will listen to stories about how the contestants “died.”

Tickets to participate in the parade can be purchased at Mexican Charm at Mesones 76. For more information, go to or send an email to

Calaveras, art and lectures

Based on the international public art exhibit CowParade, San Miguel will have an exhibition of giant skulls, which have been handed over to local artists such as Alejandro Rivera and Anado McLauchlin, who will decorate them. The skulls will be exhibited during the Festival in public and private spaces around the city. Similar skulls were exhibited last year on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, “and we are very fortunate to have this Calavera Festival in the city,” commented Oliver.

With the aim of “recovering” public spaces, from November 1 to 3 the event Arte en el Parque at Parque Juárez will feature music, workshops and exhibitions of local and international artists, all of them related to the Day of the Dead, in order to reactivate the park as a zone of creativity. On Friday, November 1, a parade with mojigangas in the form of skeletons will leave from the Jardín and head to the park, where a Volkswagen decorated as a skull by Rodolfo Calva will be on display.

On November 3 from 10am–5pm at the Teatro Ángela Peralta, TEDx San Miguel de Allende will take place. This year’s topic, rebirth, will be discussed by presenters during brief talks. Prices for the TEDx presentations range from 350 to 1,200 pesos for the day, and tickets can be purchased on the La Calaca Festival website,

La Calaca Festival will finish on November 4 with a picnic at Los Senderos, open to the general public. Nacho Rodríguez Bach, the artist who decorated Hotel Matilda, will inaugurate a sculpture made especially for Los Senderos and also will play an instrument created by him. At 4pm registration for participating in a photo shoot called “Spirits” by Spencer Tunick will start. Oliver said that only 300 persons can participate, but if there is room, people can still register on the day of the event. For more information check the Festivals and Events section of the Qué Pasa supplement or go to


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