St. Augustine Prepares for the Day of Dead

Celebrating and joyfully honoring the memory of loved ones who have died

Founded by the Spanish in 1565, St. Augustine is rich in the heritage and traditions of Spanish speaking cultures. While Americans observe Halloween in October, Día de los Muertos is celebrated with historic reenactments and festive events in St. Augustine.
Although commemorated throughout Latin America and US Hispanic communities,  Día de los Muertos originated in Mexico.  This celebration honors the dead with festivities that combines indigenous Aztec rituals with Catholicism, brought to the region by Spanish conquistadores.  Assured that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Día de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. It recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, and during this festivity the dead are also a part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share the celebrations with their loved ones. 

On Saturday, October 27th in St. Augustine’s historic district, a festive heritage event presented by Florida Living History, partnering with the Tolomato Cemetery Preservation Association will take place to prepare for the traditional Día de los Muertos two-day celebrations which officially begin on November 1st with All Saints Day in honor of the little angelitos, or little angels – children who have died – and  All Souls Day on Nov. 2 meant to invite all the adults who have passed away.  From 11 a.m.-3 p.m. the organizations will demonstrate the historic customs and foodways associated with this holiday and still used by Hispanic cultures to today.

Volunteers portray some of the notable historical personages interred in the Tolomato Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in the continental United States. In addition, a night-time, torch-lit procession through downtown St. Augustine, the traditional Marcha de la Santa Compañia, the March of the Holy Company, is led by historical re-enactors representing the souls of the noble and loyal city's citizens throughout the past 400 years.

The event will end with an abbreviated candle-lit production of the play, Don Juan Tenorio, a time-honored part of Día de los Muertos celebrations, illustrating the redemptive power of true affection and triumph of love over death itself. Admission is free.