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Mexicanas En Austin Carries On Día De Los Muertos Traditions Despite COVID-19

Members of the Mexicanas en Austin dress as Catrinas to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, in the Walnut Creek Metropolitain Park on Thursday.
Julia Reihs
/
KUT
Members of the Mexicanas en Austin dress as Catrinas to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, in the Walnut Creek Metropolitain Park on Thursday.

The group Mexicanas en Austin is finding ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos despite this year’s challenges. 

The holiday, a celebration honoring the dead, usually consists of ofrendas – or offerings in the home – as well as music, food and festivities with friends and family. But the coronavirus pandemic has hit Latino communities in Texas especially hard. Gatherings are smaller this year, and many families are mourning loved ones lost to COVID-19.

“In my personal case, I have two family members [who] passed in Mexico,” says the group's founder, Marcela de Stefano, who is originally from Monclova, Coahuila. “It was really hard because we could not be there to stay with them, to say goodbye."

Another member of the group, Gloria Mena, is paying tribute to her friend David who passed away two weeks ago – though not from COVID. She says the pandemic has made honoring him difficult.

“There was no funeral,” she says. “With all that is happening, it’s sad because in these times you want to be with people one has loved.”

De Stefano says it's especially important this year to spend time and celebrate the holiday with the family and friends she has here in Austin. A few members of her group decided to meet in Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park to dress as Catrinas – a female skeleton symbolic of Día de los Muertos – as they typically do. 

Though it's a smaller group of Catrinas than usual, they do each other’s makeup, adjust petticoats and shawls, and enjoy one another's company.

“Now, it is only a few of us,” Mena says. “But we are still trying to carry on the tradition.” 

Because of the pandemic, members of the group plan to celebrate in the ways they can.

“It’s still something that I think we have in our hearts,” she says. “We cannot forget our roots, our traditions ... because no one knows when [the pandemic] is going to stop.”

Find more about this year’s Día de los Muertos on the Texas Standard special, Ofrenda: A Decimation Of People, A Celebration Of Life.

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