The majestically bold holiday known as DĂ-a de los Muertos will once again come to life at the Museum of South Texas History.

DĂ-a de los Muertos or Day of the Dead is a unique observance deeply rooted in Hispanic tradition. The holiday focuses on the remembrance of loved ones passed, and is founded on the belief that once a year the souls of our dearly departed will return to earth. The many-sided special event will take place Saturday, Oct. 17, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m.

"This ancient festivity from Mexico, celebrating ancestry and the cycle of life, is observed with an altar exhibit, performances, music, traditional food, and so much more," said Melissa Tijerina, programming officer. "DĂ-a de los Muertos is a significant and well respected celebration," she added. "It is a common misconception that [Dia] is a morbid holiday. Nothing could be further from the truth. The event and the holiday are celebrations of life!"

The activities practiced today can be traced back some 3,000 years to the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Latin America. The Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, and other peoples of ancient Mexico celebrated the death of loved ones. After the Spanish conquest, Christian beliefs were infused into native practices and became associated with the holy days of All Souls Day on Nov. 1 and All Saints Day on Nov. 2.

The heart of any DĂ-a de los Muertos celebration is the building of altars. Ranging from simple to elaborate, these private altars are usually dedicated to a loved one, but not always. Elements of the altar incorporate personal items and photographs of the deceased and a variety of ofrendas or offerings such as marigold-like cempazĂșchitl flowers, prayer candles, and the favorite foods and beverages of the dearly departed. Sugar skulls, calaveras or skeletons and papel picado are often an integral part of the holiday.

The Museum of South Texas History presents DĂ-a de los Muertos to demonstrate the significance of the holiday to the South Texas culture. Heralded by many as the Valley's premiere DĂ-a de los Muertos celebration, the multifaceted event is sure to please the entire family.

Dia de los Muertos favorite, Pedro Garcia, will perform his one-man, bilingual play called The Life and Times of Juanito Gonzalez. Festivities for this special day also include The Deaths of Frida Kahlo dancers, La Joya High School's award-winning Mariachi Los Coyotes, DĂ-a de los Muertos artisans from Mexico and across South Texas, and children's activities.

This year, MOSTHistory is proud to welcome Mary J. Andrade to be the keynote speaker at the celebration. Regarded by many as a "leading expert" on the iconic holiday, Andrade has received many awards for her presentation and preservation of the historic celebration.

Andrade is a native of Ecuador, but has lived in the United States since 1967. She received her bachelor's in journalism from the University of Guyaquil, Ecuador, and specialized in photography in the United States. In 1978, she and her husband, Frank Andrade, founded La Oferta, a bilingual newspaper that circulates in San José, California. Andrade has received the coveted Silver Lens and Silver Quill awards from the Mexican Tourism Board. She also has received many other awards throughout Mexico and America for her preservation and presentation of the Mexican holiday.

Andrade will elaborate on her travels through Mexico during the Dia de los Muertos holiday and its historical significance during her talk, Day of the Dead: A Passion for Life. Copies of her book by the same name will be available for purchase at the Museum Store. Andrade will allot time to autograph copies of her book during the celebration.

No DĂ-a de los Muertos celebration would be complete without an altar display. More than 12 altars, built by members of the community, will be featured. The final stop in the altar exhibit will be a DĂ-a de los Muertos art instillation created by local artist Kirsten Rosten.

This year, the Mexican Consulate will join forces with MOSTHistory to create a traditional altar display in the Grand Lobby. All Affairs and Occasions catering will prepare delicious, traditional Mexican dishes, and DĂ-a de los Muertos favorites like Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) and hot chocolate will also be available to authenticate the visitor's experience.

For a complete listing of events or more information call 956-383-6911 or visit www.mosthistory.org.