La Calaca Art Festival Inspired by Day of the Dead
By Brigham Golden
La Calaca is a non-profit association dedicated to the Day of the Dead and open to all artistic expressions that honor, promote, and explore its themes. Each year we support and encourage dance, graphic arts, installations, multimedia, and performances during the days when we celebrate and honor our dead.
The festival has supported more than 300 Mexican artists and more than 200 foreign artists to show their works and make this festival a great multicultural event. The organization is run by a volunteer community of “calacas”—both Mexican nationals and foreign residents of San Miguel de Allende, including Guadalupe Trejo, Tomás Burkey, Lynn Rawden, Klaudia Oliver, Daniela Alcázar, Francisco Peyret, Luis Flores, Myrna Camacho, and Ohia Wins, among others.
Our mission is to make San Miguel de Allende a place known worldwide for its celebration of Day of the Dead, but in a participatory way, so that all who come here can become part of the celebrations through art and performance.
Our 2015 program has a special focus on children’s programming and urban art, focused in Parque Juárez and the Jardín Principal; it includes storytelling, workshops, and a parade of children dressed in skulls with monarch butterfly wings. Our Urban Art programming has invited 15 young muralists—local, national, and foreign—to intervene on the walls of Calle Antonio Villanueva in Colonia San Rafael.
We are also proud to bring two magnificent community-created altars to San Miguel: the Pyramid of the Dead in Juárez Park and, for the first time, a digital altar projected onto the streets of Centro. Another wonderful installation will be the Portal de Xibalbá at the entrance to the Guadalupe Cemetery. And this year we are expanding our festival through collaborations with Zapotec artists working with traditional altars of Oaxaca at Casa de la Cuesta, and Michoacan artist Jesús Alexandre, who will exhibit large format photographic works under the name “Origins” on calle San Francisco.
In just three years of the festival our parties have become world famous. Our principal party, on Saturday, October 31, is Xantolo, the Nahuatl word for Feast of All Saints. This festivity will be a mystical celebration of art installations, performances, and music featuring German musicians Feathered Sun, and many local, national, and international artists. The cost is 500 pesos and includes three drinks. Our closing party, Muerte Elegante (Elegant Death), will be held on Sunday, November 1, at La Casona and will feature NYC electronic artists Bedouin, as well as dancers and video projections. The cost is 500 pesos and includes three drinks.
We all know death. We all know what it is to lose those we love. And all of us will die one day, too. This powerful knowledge need not give us despair but can help us to love life and hold the spirits of the dead in our lives. By celebrating our dead we celebrate life. We are all calacas in the end!