SAN ANTONIO – Vibrant and joyful spirits will float along the most iconic waters of San Antonio for the Día de los Muertos River Parade. The celebration has deep roots in Mexico to commemorate those who have passed away. (Lee esto en español.)
Many events have been cancelled, but not this one. So, how’d they pull it off?
Chef Johnny Hernández, who’s spearheading the events of Day of the Dead across San Antonio, worked closely with city leaders, companies from Mexico and KSAT12 News to brainstorm how to celebrate in a safe way. The best option was to prerecord a river parade closed to the public.
The work however, began in Mexico City months before any camera started to record.
Hernández hired the Mexican company, El Volador, to do what they do best; large-scale events and parades.
El Volador’s technical director, Paco Enríquez has made sure every detail is taken care of.
“It’s been several months, about two or three months of organizing, planning, designing and building all these elements,” Enríquez said.
“Hundreds of people including artists, fiberglass manufacturers, carpenters (and more) make this possible,” Enríquez said.
Fiber glass sculptures are lit from within, giving the spirits on-board a special touch and what better stage than the Riverwalk.
“For me, my favorite is the Aztec (barge) because it represents the crossing of the river of life and death,” Enríquez said. “In the front of the (barge) are the Xoloitzcuintlis that help souls cross the river towards the Mictlán.”
The Xoloitzcuintlis are the Mexican hairless dogs that the Aztecs believed guided the souls of the dead through the dangerous underworld.
The 19 additional river barges include larger than life sculptures of sugar skills, traditional Mexican children’s toys including luchadores and the well-known doll Ma’lele.
The colorful wrap doll with braids and ribbons in her hair has helped preserve the Mexican indigenous clothing. The barges also feature the brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures known as alebrijes. Alebrijes represent exactly what they mean, fantasy and imaginary.
Each piece was carefully crafted in Mexico and shipped to San Antonio. Enríquez and his team arrived to the Alamo City in early October to begin the assembly of one of Mexico’s most treasured traditions on the Riverwalk marina.
“Sharing this celebration to the world has been a great opportunity for people to learn about the traditions we have in Mexico, our culture and our history,” Enríquez said. “For us, it’s special being here in San Antonio and we’re really thankful to Chef Johnny Hernández for the opportunity.”
The Day of the Dead River Parade will air on KSAT 12 on Friday, October 30 at 8 p.m.
To learn more about the art and assembly process of the parade, visit El Volador’s official Instagram page here.