Dia de los Muertos brings back memories, San Antonio’s economy

Dia de los Muertos is a festival that traditionally celebrates the dead, whether it’s family or friends from Mexico. But today, the holiday has become as commercial as Halloween and Christmas.Success from Disney Pixar cocoa Go to the aisle where HEB has its own plates, towels and insulated mugs with calavera prints.

In San Antonio, the development of the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is shown with the growing popularity of two of the largest celebrations that now draw people from the Alamo and even beyond Texas to celebrate the dead.

Muertos Fest and Spiritlandia attract small local businesses set up as suppliers.

B. Kay Richter of MySA

Dia de los Muertos capital

Spiritlandia, the annual celebration rebranded earlier this year by La Gloria chef Johnny Hernandez, kicks off Thursday, October 27 with its vibrant river parade continuing throughout the weekend, featuring music festivals, food, arts, Community Altar and Cocktail La Villita.

Hernandez said the rebrand is about making San Antonio the destination for the Dia de los Muertos. He said San Antonio was Spiritlandia.

“We’re trying to expand the message of coming to San Antonio to celebrate,” Hernandez said.

The message is spreading across the country as this Thursday’s river parade airs on Peacock, a major US streaming platform, and is hosted by actor Mario Lopez.

  St. Anthony returns to Hemisfair this weekend for the Muertos Fest, where an altar to honor the dead will be erected.

St. Anthony returns to Hemisfair this weekend for the Muertos Fest, where an altar to honor the dead will be erected.

B. Kay Richter of MySA

Across from Hemisfair is San Antonio’s Dia de los Muertos Festival, commonly known as the Muertos Fest, which is free to the public. Jim Mendiola, the festival’s artistic director, said the Muertos Fest has been running for 10 years and uses San Antonio as the capital to celebrate Day of the Dead. It was featured in National Geographic’s “7 Best Fall Festivals in America” ​​in 2019.

Muertos Fest also receives funding from sponsors such as HEB, Hemisfair, Bexar County and various departments within the city of San Antonio. Proceeds will be donated to a local non-profit inner city development that provides emergency, recreational and educational needs for the West End near Alzan-Apache Courthouse.

But it also had a major impact on San Antonio’s economy.

Calaveras are iconic images of Mexican cultural festivals.

Calaveras are iconic images of Mexican cultural festivals.

Robin Jestad / Robin Jestad

by number

When the Muertos Fest returned last year amid the slowdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mendiola said 125,000 people attended the event over two days. The Muertos Fest also has a considerable economic impact on businesses in San Antonio. Mendiola said the festival selects about 55 to 60 vendors each year to sell a variety of products, crafts and foods at the festival.

“So it’s very selective, the people who get selected, they’re small businesses, mostly women-owned,” Mendiola said.

Mendiola said Muertos Fest had a total impact of $4.6 million on the local economy. The city itself has earned $230,000, he said.

Muertos Fest and Spiritlandia are held on the weekend before Halloween or Halloween. This year, from Thursday, October 27th to Sunday, October 30th. Hotel occupancy rates on Friday and Saturday peaked in 2018, 2019 and 2021, according to Visit San Antonio. Hotels in San Antonio had the highest occupancy rate of 2019 on Saturday at 86.3 percent. In 2021, Saturday’s occupancy rate is much lower at 73.1%.

Check out the San Antonio hotel occupancy table for the weekend at Dia de los Muertos.

By comparison, Carnival contributed $340.1 million in sales to the local economy and $3.6 million to the local government in 2017, according to the Carnival San Antonio Commission website.

Based on these numbers, Dia de los Muertos has a long way to go before it becomes San Antonio’s fall carnival.

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