Lucinda’s Day of the Dead altars, a celebration of departed loved ones

October 30, 2022

Austin icon Lucinda Hutson’s Festival Garden is always a pleasure to visit. But for the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, she pulls out all the stops on her outfit. Grinning skeletons hang from trees, gates, umbrellas and front porches.

At night, purple lights give her purple casita in the Rosedale neighborhood an extra glow.

I had the pleasure of visiting Lucinda’s Altar by candlelight last Monday evening. Yes, I said the altar, plural. For most who celebrate Day of the Dead — memorializing departed loved ones, altars display their photos, favorite foods and mementos — an altar will suffice. But for Lucinda there is no half measure of adornment. I counted three large altars in his house, with many more Day of the Dead vignettes in every room and garden. It’s beautiful, and the effect is soulful.

The altar in her living room is dedicated to her beloved Sancho Rey, her fluffy and friendly black cat who used to greet visitors on the front sidewalk. He died this year, but his memory lives on and is celebrated here.

handsome boy

I love this vignette of the image of Sancho, a picture of Lucinda’s prickly pear with her name engraved on it, and a seed packet of catnip depicted with a Sancho lookalike.

A white faux pumpkin with floral ink-detail – a perfect complement to the black-and-white shawl that covers the altar.

Lucinda’s dining room is a tribute to all the Day of the Dead things she’s collected over the decades: 20-year-old Mexican sugar skulls, pull-string coffins, festive plates, an Alley Winningham tile mosaic, tin milagros and more.

Antique sugar skulls always amaze me — not only their detail and patina (from the altar candles) but how Lucinda has been able to preserve them for so many years.

On a sideboard he displays a brilliant collection of silver servingware and more sugar skulls.

Across the room, another buffet displays ceramic candle holders, pots and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sugar skulls line the window sashes.

Peeking through the window is a beaded skull.

In Lucinda’s back room, a pair of hanging devils and skeleton mermaids draw your eyes to the window.

Stacks of books about tequila are not unexpected in the writer’s home Long live Tequila!

More Mexican folk art

Lucinda’s second large altar is here, decorated with marigolds, dozens of skeletons, and pictures of her father and Sancho.

And by candlelight

In Lucinda’s backyard office, the third altar – dedicated to her mother, grandmother and aunt – is decorated with rose petals, jewelry and vintage glamour.

Her glamorous mother is pictured on the right. I believe her grandmother is in the middle.

And her aunt is on the left, if you remember right

Beneath a beautiful lamp, I spy a photo of Sancho’s elegantly crossed paws

When Lucinda turned off the lights, the altar came to life, the glass skull candleholders glowing.

Above the door, a portrait of Lucinda’s grandmother watches over the room. The Mexican blouse she wore in the grandmother’s portrait flew over the room, the sleeves outstretched like angel wings. The blouse was given to Lucinda many years ago, who cropped it for a more youthful style and probably went dancing in it. He now displays it as part of his family history and waits for all their spirits to return to meet the living on this one night of the year.

For a look back at my tour of the Lucinda Day of the Dead Gardens, which I visited last week, click here.

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dig deep

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Excavation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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