Our pets are more than our best friends. They comfort us when we’re upset, make us laugh with their antics, eat our food and lick us way too much. And this year, they can walk in the Waco Día De Los Muertos Parade on Oct. 28.
The catch though is participants must leave their bandanas and fancy harnesses behind and embrace the spirit of the Alebrije. Alebrijes in Mexican culture are spirit animals and are commonly linked with Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). But Alebrije’s origin did not begin with Día De Los Muertos. Its whimsical colors and representation of spirit animals came from the mind of twentieth-century papier-mâché artist Pedro Linares. Artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera popularized these mythical animals and now they can’t be separated from the holiday — just as our pets can’t be separated from us.
“The idea was to create an opportunity for us to also include our pets in the celebration because, for a lot of people, pets are a very important part of their family,” Parade Director Eric Linares said. “A lot of people aren’t able to come because they have to check up on their pets as well, and so it just makes sense.”
The Alebrije costume contest is making its debut in Waco’s Día De Los Muertos Parade, and it plans to stay. Judges from pet-centered local businesses will critique pets’ costumes based on a rubric but Linares said he just wants to celebrate and see who goes all out.
“We don’t have a limit on what animal can be included as long as it’s safe,” Linares said.
Last year, even though there wasn’t an official contest, someone brought their boa constrictor. Though typically people think of cats and dogs as pets, the parade will accept others if they are following handling guidelines. Linares has three cats but since he will be managing the event unfortunately they’ll have to stay home.
Alebrijes aren’t the only focus on this year’s parade. Parade Director Julie Cervantes also wants people to focus on the history of La Catrina which began its history in 1910 by artist Jose Posada in his critique against women dressing as Europeans. Posada believed these women were leaving their heritage behind so in response he created political cartoons overdramatizing Mexican dress with big lavish hats, large dresses and a skeleton as the body. Over time, La Catrina became incorporated into Día De Los Muertos as a way to honor ancestors.
“We’re really leaning into this year is the Catrina and the Alebrije,” Cervantes said. “So that’s one element, as well as constantly reminding people about what Day of the Dead is and how to celebrate it without appropriating.”
Día De Los Muertos isn’t just about the Calavera makeup, sweet treats and festivities, it’s also about honoring the people who are no longer with us. Cervantes, after losing her daughter, has a new perspective of Day of the Dead.
“It just reminds me that life is to be honored and it’s precious,” Cervantes said. “Death is inevitable, we don’t know how long we have, so we just have to treasure every moment of it.”
That’s why Linares and Cervantes want to include pets because, like humans, they have a limited time on Earth. But that’s what is so beautiful about Alebrijes is that no two are alike and they turn death into something beautiful.
Alebrijes are typically assigned by birthdate or personal characteristics. For Linares, he aligned himself with the traits of a falcon.
“I feel like falcons are always watching for something and they just kind of go for it,” Linares said.
That ambition is how Cervantes and Linares started this parade three years ago. They saw a gap in the community and wanted to fill it with a celebration that had not been celebrated here before. The parade has expanded to a vendor market, food trucks, live music, Folklorico dancers, arts and crafts activities, face painting and of course, the Alebrije costume contest. Because the parade is here to stay, Linares and Cervantes expressed their excitement for next year’s event which will fall on November 1, the official calendar day for Día De Los Muertos. But for this year, it is Oct. 28, beginning at 4 p.m. at Indian Springs Park.
“We’re really looking forward to next year, but we know we’re really, really, really excited this year,” Linares said. “There’s gonna be so much stuff happening.”
It’s not too late to sign up you and your pet in the parade. To register, visit their website and fill out the form under the ‘Alebrije Section’. Deadline for sign-ups is Wednesday, Oct. 25.