Streets won’t be filled with young superheroes and princesses scavenging for candy this year, but the community’s Halloween spirit and the traditions of Día de los Muertos are still very much alive.
For the safety and health of residents in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez on Oct. 21 signed an order to prohibit door-to-door Halloween activities.
The alternative: safer ways to celebrate Halloween this year the county suggested in a news release, such as carving and decorating pumpkins at home or outdoors with neighbors or friends, hosting an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt and having a virtual Halloween costume contest. They also suggested staying cozy at home with a Halloween movie.
As for Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday in which the lives of those who have died are celebrated and remembered, the county suggests cooking traditional dishes, setting out pillows and blankets for those who have died, and playing music they enjoyed at home.
For Museum of South Texas History CEO Francisco Guajardo, maintaining that tradition is important for maintaining the region’s identity.
“I think that how we honor the dead is certainly one of those parts of this holiday that is so redeeming,” Guajardo said. “That helps us to deal with who we are, not only in our current reality but also who we are is strengthened and emboldened and even given greater clarity because we have several ritualistic traditions that help us understand ourselves by looking at our past and looking at our ancestors.”
Under normal circumstances, families would be planning to visit the cemeteries of where their loved ones lie in rest to place flowers and other personal objects at their graves to help them on their spiritual journey. As the pandemic has brought a new, deeper meaning to the holiday, these traditions are limited.
“People embracing each other, people touching each other, people using each other to grieve and to mourn and to heal, we can’t do that the same ways,” Guajardo said, referring to social distancing precautions currently in place to mitigate the spread of the virus. “And so it’s created this kind of certain dysfunctionality in Día de los Muertos … I think Día de los Muertos has become so much more glaring as a cultural tradition as a ritual just because we are living it every single day.”
The county has asked the community to observe the month’s holidays diligently by complying with social distancing measures and celebrate with others virtually.
And organizations across the Valley have made sure residents will not be short of festive, online events to take part in.
‘LOS MUERTOS BAILAN’
The city of Edinburg in partnership with the Museum of South Texas History, or MOSTHistory, is in the middle of a two-week “Día de los Muertos: Los Muertos Bailan” virtual celebration, which began Oct. 19.
In the first week of the event, residents were able to tune into several festive activities and performances such as Catrina and Catrin makeup workshops and costume contests and an “Azteca Mexica” dance honoring pre-Hispanic origins of the holiday.
Kicking off the second week will be MOSTHistory’s Sunday Speaker Series online presentation, “Reflecting on Día de los Muertos: Life, Healing and Family” by UTRGV Professor Servando Hinojosa. That event is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday on Facebook live.
Hinojosa, who holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology, said the holiday serves as a reminder for people to find joy in remembering those who have died.
“It reminds people that family continues to exist beyond our time on Earth,” he said. “People are reminded through these commemorations, through the altars that are built, of the kinds of devotional spaces, that just because family members have died, it doesn’t mean they cease being a family member.”
He added that the pandemic will change much of the way people celebrate this year, but the heart of the holiday remains the same: celebrating the lives of the dead.
“Main points of reaffirming family connections are being hit hard, and this is causing I think a lot of ripples of pain in the community and head-scratching,” Hinojosa said. “So there’s going to need to be some rethinking and creativity as to how we continue traditions that are very much our foreground for family values and our family needs to gather.”
In addition to teaching the history and meaning of Día de los Muertos, the Edinburg museum will help families prepare decorations for it. On Monday, MOSTHistory will be hosting a “Día de los Muertos Craft Day” starting with creating calaveras at 2 p.m., and papel picados at 4 p.m. on their Facebook page.
Then community members will have three opportunities to tune into educational presentations by the museum throughout the week, starting with “Accessing Digital Altar Exhibit” 10 a.m. on Tuesday. On Wednesday, viewers will be learning about the traditions and evolving elements of the holiday with “Día de los Muertos as a Cultural Cornerstone” at 6 p.m.
The last presentation will be “Create a Día de los Muertos Home Altar” at 6 p.m. on Thursday, which will be a bilingual lesson on the history of home altars and ofrendas, and a step-by-step tutorial of how to make one.
Live music and dance performances will be broadcasted throughout the weekend. On Friday, “Honoring Los Muertos with Dance & Music” will begin at 6 p.m. on the city’s Facebook page.
On the evening of Halloween, the city will be hosting “Ghosts of Rio Grande Valley” by Dr. David Bowels at 6 p.m.
Concluding the two weeks of festivities will be a “Digital Altar Exhibit Reception,” which will be part of MOSTHistory’s Sunday Speaker Series, at 2 p.m. Nov. 1. The presentation will be broadcasted on the museum’s Facebook page.
‘STICKS AND BONES SPOOKY TRAIL’
McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlán has a Halloween-themed trail at their garden estate, which will be open until Nov. 15. At their forest, residents will be able to learn about the bones of various creatures, but the lesson will start with the animals that don’t have any, like octopuses.
The trail will have many activities and learning opportunities for children, and on the walk, they will be able to spot several semblances only mammals on Earth that can fly: bats.
Quinta Mazatlán is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The McAllen Public Library will be hosting its seventh annual South Texas Book Festival this week, which for the first time will be held virtually. Author discussions and book readings are scheduled from Thursday to Nov. 1.
At 12:05 p.m. on Halloween, the library will be hosting a magic show by magician John O’Bryant called “Booktacular,” which will be broadcasted live on https://southtexasbookfestival.com and all of the organization’s social media platforms.
‘SOMOS’ ART GALLERY
Mexican artist Mauricio Silero’s latest collection “Somos,” a photography exhibit which honors National Hispanic Heritage Month, is on display at the McAllen International Art lobby.
The exhibit is a featured installation from the Mexican Consulate, and will be on display until Nov. 9. Silero is known for blending technology and traditional techniques in his photography, which highlights the culture of Mexico.
‘CINEMA OF HORROR’
The city of Hidalgo will be showing a series of Hallween movies for all ages at the Payne Arena, starting Tuesday evening with the 2010 adaptation of “Nightmare on Elm Street” directed by Samuel Bayer.
Tickets for $35 per vehicle, with up to six people in each vehicle, can be purchased at www.cohorror.com.
Other films on the schedule include Andrés Muschietti’s “IT,” David Gordon Green’s “Halloween” and Sam Raimi’s “The Evil Dead.”
For children, the animated films “ParaNorman” by Sam Fell and Chris Butler and “Monster House” by Gil Kenan are slated to show.
The schedule of movies can also be found on the event’s website.