Some build altars to pray, some visit gravesites, and others come together to the center of town for a festival of sounds, sights and street food…a day many of the living in Lockhart like to spend remembering and celebrating their departed loved ones.
A Mexican tradition some say that dates back to Aztec’s mythological Goddess Mictecacihuatl (don’t try to pronounce this without help), Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has been absorbed by many cultures around the world. Usually celebrated over three days beginning October 31, it coincides with the Roman Catholic inspired Halloween (derived from All Saints Day) and shares at least a few things in common with America’s spooky annual tradition: a preoccupation with death, skeletons, sweet treats and community gatherings.
This year, Dia de los Muertos, Halloween, Main Street Market, and local musicians, cooks and artisans converge on what couldn’t have been a more beautiful sunny autumn Saturday around the courthouse and adjacent streets on the first day of November. A cultural mash-up like this one is nothing out of the ordinary for Lockhart locals. They soak it up with gusto, filling the streets to experience this special blend of ancient Mexico, American West pioneers, and modern street fair… as enthusiastic if not more so than other country folk hailing from south central Texas. They get into the “spirit” in more ways than one.
Images of La Catrina, the elegantly costumed female skeleton of ancient lore—a central theme of Dia de los Muertos—are everywhere. Children especially like to walk around the square wearing skull-shaped paper masks they’ve painted with bright colors and dotted with glitter and colored stones, or with hand-painted faces styled by local artisans. Make-up artists show off their skills, each outdoing the other as they expertly brush on ghoulish hues and haunting images of creepy white skeletal bones on faces of kids—and adults trying to act like kids. Nearby, a painter dabs his paintbrush onto a canvas forming his own skeletal version of death.
Food stands repeating the La Catrina theme in banners, signs and twirling hanging cutouts feature vendors hawking chili, tamales, funnel cakes, cookies, barbeque, hot dogs, Mexican hot chocolate, soft drinks, and teas. Food is everywhere. The sharp smells blend together like any well-planned festival, enticing the crowd to sample lip-smacking morsels while they stroll around listening to live tunes by Latin American and country western performers and admire the handicrafts.
Rick Trevino is a big attraction on this day, aside from los muertos. This Austin native artist and Grammy Award-winning country music artist and his band drove down to rustle up a full day’s performance, drawing a sizable crowd of folks who lay sprawled out on chairs and blankets on the courthouse lawn to soak up Trevino’s foot-stomping sounds.
The whole shebang is actually two events taking place on adjoining streets: the Dia de los Muertos festivities on Main Street organized by Feria de Culturas, and the events around the square by Lockhart Go Local and HatRod Productions in cooperation with the City of Lockhart. Word has it we can expect more of these types of shindigs monthly so folks can consume a steady diet of local music, crafts and farm fresh produce, and culture.
A round of applause for Lockhart, everyone…a city that really knows how to honor the dead.