Mass Disappointment at San Antonio’s “Spiritlandia” Day of the Dead River Parade

My family was among the many thousands of people who were left disappointed by the Spiritlandia river parade in San Antonio last night. We (and, again, thousands of others, many of whom had paid pretty serious money for riverside seats at restaurants, etc.) were underwhelmed when the first float arrived nearly an hour late, then more so when it was another 10 minutes or so before the next float appeared.  Then perhaps another 15 minutes before a third boat showed up.

Notice the distinct lack of festivity? So did we …

By this time many people in the would-be audience had given up and left, but we wanted to know what was going on, so we went upriver and there found all the rest of the floats, stalled. The poor performers were still going through the motions for their rapidly dwindling audience. There was no communication of any kind from the organizers.

Eventually, about 2.5 hours after the parade should have ended, we gave up and drove back to Austin.

It seems that the parade start was delayed by about 45 minutes for unknown reasons and that the subsequent delays were due to the organizers deferring to an NBC camera crew who were filming the event. If it had begun on time, then all the spectators would presumably have seen the parade – as it was, thousands were left frustrated and disappointed.

I treat the Dia de Muertos period seriously, as a secular/spiritual holiday, and I have done for years. My own observation of the holiday being private – we annually visit the public ofrenda display and gallery exhibits at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen, Chicago, as well as creating a secular ofrenda in our home – I knew going in that the Spiritlandia parade would represent a Disneyfication of the Day of the Dead, i.e., what happens when a folk-custom is absorbed into the corporate/commercial American mainstream. I accept that as being an inevitable mixed blessing – yes, it’s going to be slick and flashy, but it’s also (hopefully) going to help seed a more meaningful festival at this time of year, in contrast to the kitschy “cute fear”/horror movie/party vibe of modern Halloween.

I was intensely curious to be part of that experience via Spiritlandia, and that’s why I was so disappointed by what actually happened.

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