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Lucha libre gets a hold on Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos welcomes Lucha Libre at the Day of the Dead celebration in downtown Corpus Christi this year. Mucho masks and colorful theatrics will take over 10 blocks of the city from 3 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, Oct. 28. It is traditionally celebrated Nov. 1 or 2 and known as All Saints Day or All Souls Day. Courtesy photo

This year, lucha libre mixes it up with Dia de los Muertos, the most spirited, macabre and fantastical event to ever take over downtown Corpus Christi. Now in its 10th year, this annual block-party-turned-super-fest will cover 10 blocks in the Marina Arts District from 3 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 28.

The two Mexican imports have a lot in common: Both are famous for bizarre masks and a knack for the theatrical. A sport that originates out of Mexico, lucha libre, or free fight, incorporates dramatic soap opera storylines into its colorful wrestling matches. It is famous for its tag-team wrestling with three-member teams.

In addition to wrestling, an art exhibition inside K*Space Contemporary called Viva la Lucha features artist renditions of the wrestlers, known as luchadores.

Also this year, more than 85 vendors will line the streets with handmade arts and crafts for sale. Live music will reverberate from two stages, including the sounds of Los Skarnales, followed by headliner El Dusty, a local and renowned deejay who in the past year was nominated for a Latin Grammy and recently signed a deal with Sprint Music Latino.

On the second stage, acts such as DJ Wrong$song, Chica’s Rock and Mariachi Mexicanisimo will perform.

In the early part of the day, both stages will feature performances by Dia de los Muertos bands, ballet folklorico and other cultural dance groups.

Corpus Christi’s famed Sparkling City Mermaids anchor the children’s area, where they will swim up for photo opportunities after an enchanting musical performance. A magician will also be on (sleight of) hand, performing tricks and illusions to wow audiences of all ages.

Dress up for the festival in your sugar skull best — or show up ready to get your face painted at one of a dozen different face painters on site. Face painters range from the Miller High School cheerleaders to professional MAC makeup artists brought in by the House of Rock.

Giant paper mache puppets will parade through the crowds and tables of art activities, including sugar skull and mask making.

For the more spiritual-minded, community and family altars will be on display at The Ritz Theater. On the day of the event, the public is invited to leave a photo or tribute for their lost loved ones at the community altar. Individual altars can be added, if completed in the theater by Oct. 15.

In addition to the altars, ex-votos will be on display. Ex-votos are small devotional paintings, or votives, created in thanks for an answered prayer. Anyone who wants to pay tribute for miracles or prayers in their lives is invited to contribute to the collection.

DIA DE LOS ORIGINS

When organizers Michelle Smythe of K*Space Contemporary and Belinda Edwards of Axis Tattoo decided to throw a block party for Dia de los Muertos 10 years ago, they covered one block with about 30 vendors, one band and a deejay. They were overwhelmed by the 500 people who showed up and decided to do it again. It has grown exponentially each year.

“We didn’t know it would blow up,” Smythe said. “This year, we expect 30,000 people.”

In Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is a national holiday during which families congregate in cemeteries, bringing favorite foods, drinks and other tokens to gravesites to honor their deceased loved ones.

“Since our population is 60 percent Hispanic, it makes sense that a lot of that tradition carries over into our culture here,” Smythe said. “It’s a healthy way of dealing with death.”

Both agreed the holiday would be a good way to bring people to downtown Corpus Christi and expose them to local culture in a way that would touch them artistically, spiritually and emotionally.

Dia de los Muertos affects everyone,” Edwards said. “Everyone has a special someone who has passed away. This is a way to celebrate them.”

As an important cultural and community event, the growth and popularity of the Day of the Dead festival should be no surprise.

“The Day of the Dead is one of those holidays that really resonates with our community because it is more than just a festival to go out and party,” Smythe said. “It’s a festival to honor loved ones and pay tribute to the past. It strikes an emotional, poignant chord with the community.”

To get to the festival, Corpus Christi RTA offers free park-and-ride service from City Hall. Shuttle buses will drop off attendees in the middle of the festival and run until 1 a.m. to get everyone back to their cars. For more information on the park-and-ride service, visit ccrta.org.

For more details on Dia de los Muertos in Corpus Christi, visit diadelosmuertoscc.com.

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