Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a day to mourn and pay respects to the dearly departed. It's a longstanding Mexican tradition that can be traced to the Aztecs. In Mexico, this day is celebrated on November 2 by going to the cemetery and staying overnight next to a beloved one’s tomb. Graves are decorated with fresh flowers and candlelight. These family-centered and solitary celebrations have also developed into larger festivals and community events, many of which take place in metro Phoenix.
So, what to expect for Día de los Muertos in Phoenix? Art, music, procesiones (marches to burial sites) and altares de muertos (altars for the dead). An altar de muertos serves to guide the souls of the dead back to Earth for one day. An altar could include photos, candlelight, crucifix, incense, sugar skulls, and ofrendas (offerings) with the person's favorite food and drinks.
Here's your guide to celebrating the holiday with events all around the Valley.
Día de los Muertos Festival: Spirits Connect
Mesa Arts Center hosts its annual Day of the Dead festival with live entertainment and a colorful mercado full of an assortment of jewelry, arts and crafts, and Día de los Muertos merchandise. The festivities also feature a community altar where individuals and families can participate. The altar is presented by Mesa Arts Center in collaboration with the Consulate General of Mexico and the Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens. The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 22, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 23. The festival is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the festival website.
"Unforgettable: A Time of Remembrance"
Remember your loved ones while visiting the Burton Barr Central Library, where guests can enjoy altars inspired by the theme “Unforgettable: A Time of Remembrance.” The exhibit takes place from Sunday, October 16, through Saturday, November 5, at the first-floor gallery. There will also be an artists' reception night on Friday, November 4, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., with a traditional dance performance by Ballet Folklorico. For more information, visit the Phoenix Public Library website.
Día de los Muertos Celebration at Desert Botanical Garden
Music, dance, and storytelling are included in this celebration. It starts with the "Ofrenda Exhibition" on October 21 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with altars created by local artists. The celebration continues with a two-day event on October 29 and 30 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. La Procesión starts at 5 p.m. The event also features live entertainment, a community altar, and a mercado. Entrance is included with your paid admission to the garden or with membership. General admission to the garden is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $12 for students, $10 for children (3 to 12), and free for children under 3 years old. For more information, visit the Desert Botanical Garden website.
Día de los Muertos PHX Festival
Cultural Coalition presents its Fifth Annual Día de los Muertos PHX Festival at Steele Indian School Park. The free event will feature The Flight of Quetzalcoatl, La Llorona, and Las Flacas. La Procesión starts at 5:30 p.m. There will also be food, an artist mercado, face painting, arts activities, and entertainers with performances in music, dance, and theater. At the community altar, attendees can place a photo or memento of your late loved one. The interactive festival will take place on Sunday, October 23, from noon to 6 p.m. For more information, please visit the festival website.
Día de los Muertos: La Cumbia No Muere
Spend your evening dancing cumbias at the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center. The event includes mariachi, artists painting, food and art vendors, a tequila class and tasting, and altars. The family-friendly event takes place at 147 East Adams Street on Friday, October 28, from 5 p.m. to midnight. Admission is $5. For more information, visit the Facebook event.
Read on for more festivals across the Valley — and a 5K.
Día de los Muertos Festival in Downtown Glendale
Get ready to eat some pan de muerto in Historic Downtown Glendale. This family festival includes food vendors, arts and crafts booths, Aztec dancers, piñatas, mariachi bands, a procession, and more. The free two-day event takes place at Murphy Park on Saturday, October 29, from noon to 10 p.m. and on Sunday, October 30, from noon to 8 p.m. For more information, see the Visit Glendale website.
Carrera de los Muertos: Run of the Dead
Honor the Day of the Dead by running the inaugural Carrera de Los Muertos 5K. The event also includes art, music, face painters, and altars. The race benefits the nonprofit organization Cultural Coalition. The festivities take place at Cesar Chavez Plaza in downtown Phoenix. Admission is $50 for adults and $40 for children under 17, and includes the 5K entry, a T-shirt, and a unique finisher medal. For more information and to register, visit Los Muertos 5K website.
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Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery Día de los Muertos Festival
The spirit of Day of the Dead comes to life with a celebration at a historic cemetery. Ballet Folklorico Esperanza is hosting its Seventh Annual Día de los Muertos with altars, mariachi, kids' activities, candlelight posada, arts, and food vendors. You can participate in contests like Catrin/Catrina costume and salsa making. The free celebration takes place on Saturday, October 29, from 4 to 8 p.m. Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery is located at 3800 West Santa Fe Trail in Avondale. For more information, visit the Ballet Folklorico Esperanza website.
Third Annual Día de los Muertos Festival
St. Mary’s Basilica partners with Xico Arte y Cultura to present the Third Annual Día de los Muertos Festival at 231 North Third Street. Activities include live entertainment and music, altars, food trucks, and a mercado. The event takes place on Sunday, November 6, starting at 11 a.m. The community procession starts at 12 p.m. The festival is free and open to the public. Canned good donations are welcomed to benefit St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank. For additional details, visit the Xico Arte y Cultura website.