Cemeteries transform from gray to orange for Día de Muertos

Families adorn graves with marigolds, candles and offerings

SAN ANTONIO – Overnight in Mexico, and even parts of San Antonio, families visited cemeteries to adorn their loved ones’ graves for Día de los Muertos.

Families in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico celebrate Noche de Muertos. (Johnny Hernandez)

The tradition goes beyond the intricate altars that lead up to Day of the Dead. The main celebration takes place on Nov. 2 after families have cleaned the gravesites.

Cemeteries are then transformed from gray to bright shades of yellow and orange through the use of marigolds. Candles, food and drinks are also placed on the grave to honor the departed.

In parts of San Antonio, the celebration is no different. Some families have practiced the tradition for years, while for others, such as Stefanie Saenz, Day of the Dead is new.

“This is our first year celebrating it,” Saenz said.

Saenz, along with her children, built an altar at home to honor the life of her husband, Gabriel Saenz.

“He (had) been battling (cancer) since 2011 (and) was cancer-free for about seven years,” Stefanie said. “The last two years, you know, we’ve been in and out of the hospital, and in May of this year, he passed away.”

On Day of the Dead, Samuel, their son, and Stefanie visited Gabriel’s burial site at Mission Park on the city’s Southeast Side.

Four year-old, Samuel Saenz places picture of father on Day of the Dead altar in San Antonio. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

“I just wanted to get (Samuel), you know, to do something in memory of my husband -- you know, his father and start him off young,” Stefanie said. “(My son) needs to talk about it because these are all the memories he has (of his dad). He doesn’t get any more. This is it.”

She hopes the Day of the Dead is a tradition her youngest son will carry on so that his father’s memory will never fade.

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About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.