In the gloriously positive and progressive Disney series featuring the company's only Latinx princess, Elena of Avalor, the noble namesake sings a song about the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos. She calls this holiday dedicated to the dearly departed "The Festival of Love." And, indeed, the story goes that November 1 and 2 are days when the portal separating the living from the deceased opens, letting those of us still breathing mingle with the souls of lost loved ones. It's customary to show the dead how much we love them by visiting their graves and building altars, or ofrendas, with gifts of marigolds, sugar skulls, and their favorite foods. It is based on an ancient festival dedicated to the Aztec goddess Mictecacihuatl but was tweaked to accommodate the Western autumn holidays Halloween and All Saints' Day.
Nowadays, people north of the border use the Day of the Dead as a time to party — presumably, while thinking of their late loved ones. No one said it wasn't problematic, but if done right, any day is a good day to have fun in the name of your fallen friends and family. Here are some events in South Florida that celebrate Día de los Muertos with a lot of love and noise.
Ninth-Annual Day of the Dead Celebration. Fort Lauderdale's Day of the Dead celebration is one of the most legit and largest in the nation. The city's Memory for the Dead, Party for the Living includes a Skeleton Procession of 45 18-foot-tall puppets created by the great puppeteer Jim Hammond. These giant works of art make their way down Las Olas Boulevard along with folks painted like sugar skulls. Hammond says in a press release that the party "maintains and respects the cultural integrity of international Día de los Muertos traditions. The Florida Day of the Dead Celebration provides a memory for the dead and a party for the living.”
The party includes mariachi bands, skull-inspired artists, plenty of face painters, Mesoamerican dancers, and families ready to honor the Mexican tradition. Kick off the celebration at New River Inn at 3 p.m. with a sugar skull exhibition. Folks begin staging at 4 p.m. in Huizenga Plaza for the 6:30 processional. It ends at the Folklorico Stage with the Craft Crypt and Muertos Street Festival (SW Third Avenue and Broward Boulevard) with food trucks and other diversions. At 8 p.m., hit up America’s Backyard to rock out at the Boneyard Bandstand, or sway to Skully Blues at Bar Stache. Exhibition at 3 p.m. Friday, November 2, at New River Inn, 231 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Procession at 4 p.m. Friday, November 2, in Huizenga Plaza, 32 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; dayofthedeadflorida.com. Admission is free.
Night of the Dead and Revolution Live Street Party. Revolution Live is stepping it up the day after the Skeleton Processional with a huge Night of the Dead block party. Appropriately headlining will be Grateful Dead interpreter Dark Star Orchestra. Also set to perform are the eclectic New Orleans act Galactic, local group Bobby Lee Rodgers Trio, and a mariachi band. There's even an afterparty featuring Crazy Fingers.
Asked why Revolution is throwing this party, event partner and head of Damn Good Hospitality Jeff John asks you to make a weekend out of the holiday. “Fort Lauderdale’s Day of the Dead Festivities have been named by USA Today as one of the largest in North America, and this year, it kicks off the weekend," John says, "Now, with Night of the Dead the next day, Saturday, we’ve made it even bigger as a two-day festival.” 3 p.m. Saturday, November 3, at Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale; jointherevolution.net. Admission costs $38.50 and $15 for the afterparty.
Día de Los Muertos Celebration Featuring Juke. Experimental blues band Juke is headed to the nautical/vintage-themed bar Nancy on Calle Ocho with an appropriately sombre genre. Frontman Eric Garcia says, "I'm stoked to play this holiday at the coolest gem of a venue in Miami. It also happens to be my birthday, so my liver will also be participating in Día de los Muertos." The performance will be accompanied by a DJ set by Jenni Foxx for those who want to shake like a skeleton. The night is sponsored by Tequila Espolón and Grand Marnier, so expect free margaritas from 11 p.m. to midnight. RIP, Garcia's liver. 10 p.m. Friday, November 2, at Nancy, 2007 SW Eighth St., Miami; nancy305.com. Admission is free.
Day of the Dead Ball. Lotus Tribal Arts, AKA House of Tribal, aims to build confidence in and augment the self-image of women regardless of their age, shape, or size through belly dancing. This Saturday, the tribe of dancers and musicians will host the Day of the Dead Ball, offering cultural fusion and dance. Lotus Tribal Arts' founder, known only as Alina, says, "We honor the day on the actual Day of the Dead, when we build the stage, which is the ofrenda." The ball opens with a performers' procession and includes star belly dancers, mariachi acts, open dance, food, vendors, and karaoke. 8 p.m. Saturday, November 3, at Lotus Tribal Arts House of Tribal, 6692 Stirling Rd., Davie; lotustribalarts.com. Admission costs $20.
Día de Los Muertos Costume Party. Allapattah bar Las Rosas is always pumping with live acts, and November 1 will be no different. Whether or not you missed Halloween, you can come dressed in costume to the Día de Los Muertos Costume Party, featuring face painting, candy, and performances by Left-Handed Jacket, Monterrey, SoulPax, and Salas, as well as a DJ set by BayRan.
"Día de los Muertos... is about celebrating the lives of people we loved or knew who have passed on. This event celebrates their spirits by partying to their memory because they're no longer with us. So we invoke their spirits in order to celebrate alongside them for one night," Roger del Pino of Monterrey says. He adds that attendees can enjoy a diverse lineup of local and touring acts, a costume competition with a bar tab prize, cheap drink specials, and "ghouls and goblins." 8 p.m. Thursday, November 1, at Las Rosas, 2898 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; lasrosasbar.com. Admission is free.
Día de los Muertos x Shaker x 27. Inarguably, 27 Restaurant & Bar, which is located in a refurbished, historic house in Miami Beach, is one of the tastiest eateries in town with a chill, cool vibe. It's part of the hip Freehand Hotel complex that also includes the Broken Shaker, serving craft cocktails of the highest-quality flavors. The Freehand will celebrate Día de los Muertos with an affordable, gourmet Mexican feast. Expect $5 esquites, $4 tacos, $5 churros, and other deals such as giveaways from the Salty Donut.
Bar Lab and Broken Shaker cofounder Gabe Orta calls the day "one of our favorite celebrations of the year. Who doesn’t love drinking tequila and eating tacos while paying respect to the spirits that passed away?” 6 p.m. Thursday, November 1, at Freehand Miami, 2727 Indian Creek Dr., Miami Beach; freehandhotels.com. Admission is free.
Day of the Dead at Melinda's. Did you know there was a bar in Wynwood dedicated to the intoxicating Mexican beverage mezcal? It's Melinda's, a late-night joint featuring fancy fare and booze downstairs from the Electric Pickle. It will serve a Mexican feast with a special menu of affordable nachos and shots, along with a secret menu to be released the day of the event. There will be DJs spinning on the patio, dancing, and singing late into the night, all to celebrate the dearly departed. 5 p.m. Friday, November 2, at Melinda's, 2826A N. Miami Ave., Miami; facebook.com/melindas.miami. Admission is free.
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Día de los Muertos at Do Not Sit on the Furniture. If you really want to sweat out your sadness and enjoy late-night dancing for the dead, hit up Miami Beach electronica club Do Not Sit on the Furniture. Its Día de los Muertos event marks the first anniversary of Peace of Mind Entertainment Group's party-throwing at the venue. They're bringing out local DJs Mario Rosenthal, Omar Azhari, and Pezlo MD, who will certainly please your feet. The best news for hams? Anyone who RSVPs and comes dressed as a skeleton will get in free all night. 10 p.m. Thursday, November 1, at Do Not Sit on the Furniture, 423 16th St., Miami Beach; facebook.com/DoNotSit. Admission is free to $20.
¡Uno, Dos, Tres! Día de los Muertos Celebration at 222 Taco. You can't go wrong celebrating Día de los Muertos at a taco joint. So hit up the very hip 222 Taco in North Bay Village. The restaurant will host a three-day affair with mariachis, drink specials such as $5 Casa Noble margaritas and Mexican draft beers, and tacos for a mere two bones. Y100 iHeartRadio will be onsite with giveaways worth grabbing. DJs, face-painting, and hair-braiding will get your soul and body in the mood to honor those who can no longer sit at the taco table. 11 a.m. Thursday, November 1, through Saturday, November 3, at 222 Taco, 1624 79th St. Cswy., North Bay Village; 222ta.co. Admission is free.