5 Tips for Making Your Own Día de los Muertos Altar

There are so many fierce Día de los Muertos altar competitions around town, you'd think that the whole point was to show off your crafty skills to the living instead of honoring the dead. But even if you prefer to memorialize your loved ones in privacy, creating your own offrenda and displaying at home it this weekend can be a fulfilling way to do so. If you're feeling a little anxious about diving into altar culture, never fear. We tracked down some Día de los Muertos pros (or, as professional as you can get in the amateur altar-making game) last week at a planning meeting for the first-annual Día de los Muertos celebration in La Villita.

The festive weekend event includes concerts, food, public art and an intriguing procession filled with dances, drums and puppets. There's also a living altar contest, with 2,500 SF of altars on display, each hoping to win the $2,000 cash prize. Faith Radle, helping to produce and organize the festival, said last week "We've been overwhelmed with our altar response ... I've been blown away." The meeting itself featured representatives from some 30 participants or teams. We spied SA-famous musicians, street artist Shek Vega (teaming up with artist Louie Chavez for a joint entry), Robot Creative graphic designers, social activists and many more last weekend and talked to a few of them about how altar virgins can start an tradition at home. If you still need inspiration, you can view the altar displays starting today (Fri) at 5 p.m. through 11 p.m. tomorrow (Sat) night. The winners of the altar contest will be announced Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. While the concerts at Arneson River Theatre are ticketed, the surrounding Día de los Muertos festivities, including the altar displays, are open to the public.

1. "Start early ... Early enough to see what works and what doesn't" —Louie Chavez


2. "Make it personal. It could be anything. It could be a picture in a frame that you put mementos and flowers around." —Carrie Avery


3. "You've always gotta have their favorite foods, candies, sweets and drinks, because it's all about them." —Fabian Diaz

4. "Traditionally, it's a three-tiered altar with candles, sage, incense and food." —Prichie


5. "Whoever you're dedicating it to, have their favorite foods, items ... and glasses of water because they'll be traveling on their journey ... Sage or incense smoke [represents] your prayers for them going up to heaven." —Patricia Castillo

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