Dia de los Muertos Street Festival in Downtown Corpus Christi

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Painted faces as skulls were everywhere.
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Colorful handmade arts and crafts vendors were abundant.
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Tons of music, dance, food, art, and fun

 

Source:  http://diadelosmuertoscc.com/

Background – Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos (DDLM) or the Day of the Dead is a traditional holiday in Mexico when deceased friends and family members are remembered and celebrated. It is a poignant time, both solemn and joyous, with colorful artistic traditions, pageantry, and whimsy despite the sobering subject. Dia de los Muertos is a joyful remembrance in which death is recognized as a natural part of the cycle of life.

In the arts, everyday life is represented in skeletal form. A common symbol of Dia de los Muertos is the skull or “calavera” often represented in masks, candy, and other curios. Traditional activities include making sugar skulls decorated with brightly colored icing, papel picaco (cut paper banners) and paper mache’ masks and figures.  Some people believe possessing Day of the Dead items, like tattoos, dolls, sugar skulls or jewelry, can bring good luck.

Souls of the deceased return to visit loved ones on the days of October 31-November 2.  In preparation for the reunion, families create altars to honor the deceased with ofrendas (offerings) of yellow marigolds, memorabilia, photos, favorite foods, beverages and trinkets of the departed.  Religious and spiritual symbols, like the Christian Cross and Virgin Mary often adorn altars, as well.

Because it is a national holiday in Mexico, schools and government offices close, and the streets are decorated.  People, young and old alike, participate in the festivities: parades, dancing in the town square, and processions to the cemetery.  At the cemetery, the spirits are honored with music, dancing, poetry and stories.  Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as people recall funny events and stories about the departed.  In some areas of Mexico, they picnic or even sleep at the gravesite.

This celebration has gone on for centuries in Mexico.  By presenting the Dia de los Muertos festival and educational programming, we are providing an opportunity for people to learn about this rich cultural tradition of Mexico, to create a connection to our past, and to honor and celebrate the deceased.

Our DDLM Festival assists with cultural tourism by drawing artists, vendors, musicians, and festival-goers to Corpus Christi and to the downtown area.  To enhance our DDLM programming, K Space Contemporary has added cultural art workshops during the month of October and a fine art exhibition. During November, a thematically associated exhibition will be displayed in the main gallery, including the Extravagancia de Piñatas, a contest and exhibition of piñatas constructed by area K-12 schools (groups/art classes/art clubs).  These student groups compete for cash awards for classroom supplies.

The 7th Annual Dia de los Muertos Festival was held Saturday, November 1, 3 pm to midnight!  The festival is held in the 400-500 blocks of Starr and 500-700 blocks of Mesquite Streets in downtown Corpus Christi. Everyone is encouraged to wear a costume.  The event includes live music, Mariachis, Folklorico dancers, Hecho a Mano Art Expo, Kids’ Activities, community altar, food, drinks and more.  Texas A & M University Art Department’s “Hold Steady Iron Pouring Crew” will be on hand offering visitors a chance to create their own miniature iron sculpture while the Printmaking Department will be print customized t-shirts.  A community altar is located inside K Space Contemporary.

Many of  Corpus Christi’s favorite artists will be on hand selling their work and El Dia de los Muertos themed items.

The Hecho a Mano Art Expo features over 75 artists offering everything from jewelry to sculpture to all kinds of Dia de los Muertos related trinkets.  Those that are interested in being a vendor will find guidelines and registration information under “Vendor Information” on this website.

We are accepting sponsors and seeking volunteers.   Sponsorship information is available at http://www.diadelosmuertoscc.com.  Anyone interested in volunteering may call (361)887-6834.

Dia de los Muertos Street Festival is coordinated by the Electra Art*Axis Tattoo, K Space Contemporary, Corpus Christi Downtown Management District, and House of Rock. Proceeds from the event benefit K Space Contemporary, a 501 (C) 3 non-profit arts organization.

 

 P.S. I just had to buy 3 of Roel Palacio’s wonderful masks! They are just amazing!

Out of the Clear, Blue Yonder

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The beaches begin to clear up this time of year from seaweed.
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The sediments settle down revealing blue water that approaches the shore this time of year.

 

Late July until sometime close to Winter is my favorite time on the beaches of North Padre Island. Why? This time of the year is when the clear, blue water finally comes onshore. Early Spring and Summer, you can see the blue water off shore, but the waves churn up the sediments and the water is murky. Also early Spring brings the mats of seaweed or Sargassum onto the shores of Texas beaches. Late summer the Sargassum seaweed begins to abate to reveal clean beaches.

However, this year we had a long invasion of this golden-brown weed all the way into July here in the Coastal Bend. Yes, it can be downright gross on the beaches for tourists and locals, but sea turtles and fish love it. The floating mats of it offshore provide a mobile habitat for marine life as drifts to shore.

So this is the time to enjoy the pretty blue water on the shores of North Padre Island. The winds tend to let up unless there is a hurricane or tropical system and the seaweed gives us a break from fuzzy beaches of Spring. Just last weekend I spotted a few snorkelers checking out the fish by the rocks of the jetties by the north side of Packery Channel.

So take a little time and enjoy the beach this time of year! I know I will!

 

A Natural, Healthy Coral Reef off the Texas Coast?

Photo courtesy of KHOU.com. "If you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden. "
Photo courtesy of KHOU.com. “If you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden. “

Yes! Not only do we have one, but one of the few thriving coral reefs left in the world!

It’s kind of a well kept secret here.

…And who would guess off the coast of Galveston?

Photo courtesy of KHOU.com
Photo courtesy of KHOU.com

Some say traveling to Texas “is like a whole other country” with the biodiversity this state has. We may not have the most gorgeous state in the union, but we do have variety. Many people travel the world to see what we have in our own backyard. Growing up in Houston, I had heard of the Flower Gardens, but never had gone there. Also, not that many people really knew that much about it.  Going to Galveston as a kid, and playing in the murky water, it is hard to image a natural, lush tropical coral reef just miles off shore.

Pretty cool, huh?

Just as a side note, the Nearshore project has been working on man-made coral reefs by sinking ships and other objects to attract marine life just off the coast of Port Aransas and South Padre Island. So now you can dive Texas.

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Photo courtesy of KHOU.com

Read the article from KHOU 11 News:

by Doug Miller / KHOU 11 News khou.com

 Updated Wednesday, Jun 11 at 10:46 PM

GALVESTON, Texas — When you think about Galveston, you probably picture sun and surf, maybe the Pleasure Pier or sometimes seaweed, but you probably don’t think about great diving.

Small wonder, when you consider what you see when stand on the seawall and look at the murky chocolate water splashing ashore. But if you go about a hundred miles offshore, you can dive in crystal clear blue water as beautiful as anything in the Caribbean and behold a natural wonder so stunning fishermen a century ago nicknamed it the Texas Flower Garden.

Photos: Go diving in the Texas Flower Garden

“A lot of people are surprised to find out that there is an exceptional coral reef off the coast of Texas,” said G.P. Schmahl, the superintendant of the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary. “When people come down to the shoreline in Galveston and other parts of Texas and see the kind of brown, muddy water, it doesn’t even occur to them that there could be a coral reef in these waters,”

In fact, the coral reefs in the sanctuary host a colorful collection of sea life divers travel the world to behold. Curious manta rays and spotted eagle rays approach divers. Colorful parrotfish share the ecosystem with moray eels. And the concentration of coral is larger than anywhere else in the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean.

“What I love to see is divers who’ve never been there,” said Emma Hickerson, a NOAA research coordinator working on the sanctuary. “And the first time they come out of the water with these huge grins on their faces. And they said they have no idea what was out here. And mostly, they say, ‘Wow! There’s so much coral!’”

The sanctuary actually encompasses three separate areas, underwater salt domes that stand higher than the surrounding ocean floor. Snapper and grouper fishermen who saw the colorful sponges and other marine life under their boats are credited with discovering the ecological wonder in the late 19th century. The area was designated as a national marine sanctuary in 1992 and it’s now managed under the direction of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“People will travel the world to see what we have right here off the coast of Texas,” Hickerson said. “So people will travel the world to see manta rays, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, spotted eagle rays, and we’ve got them right here at the Flower Garden Banks.”

At a time when coral reefs around the world are in decline, Flower Garden Banks is thriving largely because it’s so remote it attracts comparatively few divers. National Marine Sanctuaries researchers who routinely visit the site in a specially designed $3.8-million vessel say they’ve found fragments of clay pigeons on the reef indicating visitors have shot skeet off of their boats in the area. But they say most of the thousands of divers who visit every year take care to avoid disturbing the ecologically sensitive site.

“The Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary is what the Great Barrier Reef used to look like.” said Bill Kiene, a NOAA scientist working with the sanctuary. “It is actually one of the healthiest coral reefs in all the western hemisphere. And it’s very close to Galveston.”

But even for experienced divers, an expedition to Flower Garden Banks can prove challenging. Strong currents churn through the gulf waters surrounding the reefs, which lie about 60 feet beneath the surface.

Still, the dive can be especially rewarding on the one night in August – seven to ten days after the full moon — when the coral spawn.

“It looks like an underwater snowstorm.” Hickerson said. “Every year we get witness the birth of a new reef. It’s a most spectacular event to see.”

Note to self…Triple-Check your docs Weeks Before you Leave the Country!

 

Photo courtesy of: www.lakewood.org
Photo courtesy of: http://www.lakewood.org

Wow! Life has been busy for me here! I have not posted in awhile due to getting our family ready to go to the Philippines. My husband is from there, and we were planning to take a long trip there with the kids to visit family and see the sights. This was going to be the first time there for my children and myself.

Well, all of these earnest plans came to a screeching halt when I went to the airport to try to adjust our seat arrangement for the long flight. We had reserved seats 6A, 6B, 6C, 6D with Travelocity. My hubby checked with American Airlines and our seat said “unreserved” on their site. So the day before we were to depart, I went to the airport to try to see if I could get that taken care of.

I went to the ticket counter and had spoken to the representative. He was working on trying to at least get our seats with one parent and one child sitting together minimum. Then he asked if I had my passports.

I replied, “Oh, I left them at home. I did not realize that I needed them for a seat change.” However, I did remember that I took pictures of my passports and ID’s with my phone, and had them just for extra measure.

I whipped out my pics from my I-Phone. The representative replied, “Wow, you are really prepared.”

I explained, “I really try because I am traveling with my two young children. I have to try to remember everything…medicines, bug spray, plenty of sunblock…”

As he was punching buttons on his computer, I was recalling all of the things on my To Do list. I packed as lightly as possible for us and the kids; I had to make copies of our passports and ID’s; I had dig out of savings and pre-pay our bills for a month; I had to get arrangements for the dogs and cat to get fed and exercised; I had to call the car insurance and get our cars put on “storage rate.” I had to make arrangements for my elderly mother….on and on…

Next, he looked over his glasses at me and stated, “Ma’am this passport is expired.”

Expired?

Expired??

Expired???

My mind was racing; my heart was pounding. “How could that be? I had checked everything!

Or so I thought.

My son’s passport was still good for 3 more months, and my daughter’s expired. How could that be? We got them done on the same day.

Panicked, I begged the poor man behind the counter and implored, “What can I do?” He directed me to the main post office in town.

Hurriedly, I drove to that post office.  While there, they informed me that I had to go to Houston (which is 4 hours away) with my husband, child, and plenty of checks  to try to get an expedited passport. However, since it was 3:00 pm on a Friday, I would have to wait in line behind those with appointments on Monday. If I was lucky, I might get the passport on Monday, but maybe not.

Then I called Travelocity…

They could not do anything without charging $300 per ticket penalty plus the difference in price from when I bought the tickets to what they are worth now. They referred me to call American Airlines (our main carrier). After a long time, and finally getting to a supervisor, the bottom line was that sure they could adjust the dates, but it would cost almost as much to do the date adjustment as the initial price of the tickets. So in the end, I would pay almost double.

Yikes!

Then I had to see how much it cost to cancel and refund the whole trip. Yep, I was out about $1000 for that move. (Note: I can only travel during the summertime for longer periods of time since I have 2 kids in school, and I am a teacher.)

So, tearfully, I will try again for next year.

Running the Beach to Bay

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Photo courtesy of http://www.beachtobayrelay.com

Lace up those Asics, it is time to run first and later play at the Beach to Bay Relay!

According to http://www.beachtobayrelay.com, “Since 1976, runners and fun-seekers have flocked to Corpus Christi, Texas to run the Beach to Bay Relay Marathon. To many runners, the annual event has become a tradition throughout the State of Texas.

Beach to Bay has grown to be the largest relay marathon in the United States. Attracting runners from all over the U.S. as well as Kenya, England and Mexico. Approximately 2,600 teams totaling over 16,000 runners compete each year.

The Beach to Bay Relay Marathon is a six-person relay running event that totals 26.2 miles of beach, pavement, a little sweat, an occasional tear and a bunch of smiles. Beginning on the sands of North Padre Island, winding through Naval Air Station Corpus Christi and ending at McCaughan Park along Corpus Christi’s scenic Shoreline Drive, the course is divided into six-legs of roughly 4.4 miles each.

Always held on the third Saturday in May, Armed Forces Day, B2B proudly honors the men and women serving in our United States Military. It’s a tradition founded by Captain John Butterfield back in 1976.”

After the runners complete their legs, most teams gather at McCaughan Park to cheer on their last leg runners and later celebrate a good run with a little beer and pizza. The B2B website proclaims, “Pain now; beer later.”

So, if you want a little fun while you run, the Beach to Bay Relay is the way.

Attractions in Port Aransas, Texas

One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.
One of many coastal birds in Port Aransas.

Port A has always been a lazy fishing village since I moved here back in 1991. Now, it is a bustling small town with its own fun, laid-back vibe for anyone at any age.

Of course they have the usual things such as deep sea fishing going to the beach. I enjoy going to the park next to the fairy landing. There is plenty of people watching, fishing, birding, bike riding, kite flying, or any other outdoor activity to do there, especially with the kids.

The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.
The Park next to the ferry landing in Port Aransas is a good place to take the kids on a nice day.

Another thing I like to do on a slow traffic day is to take the short fairy ride to Harbor Island and watch the dolphins playing in the waves. We usually try to see how many we can spot. Once you get the idea on how to see them, they get easier to find. One hint: they are usually playing in the wake of an oncoming barge. Port Aransas is a great little fun spot in our Coastal Bend.

The following is an article from USA Today that discusses a few fun things about Port A:

http://traveltips.usatoday.com/attractions-port-aransas-texas

Lauren Miller, Demand Media

 

 

 

 

 

“Port Aransas is popular vacation destination in southwest Texas. The city is on Mustang Island on Aransas Bay with ferry service from the mainland. College students in Texas swarm to Port Aransas during spring break, and vacationers visit the town year-round because of its subtropical climate. There are a wide variety of attractions in the Port Aransas area.

Lydia Ann Lighthouse

Construction on the Lydia Ann Lighthouse began in 1851 to light up the Aransas Pass between Mustang Island and nearby San Jose Island. During the United States Civil War, Union and Confederate troops fought for control of the lighthouse. The lighthouse operated for decades, but began to decline in use after the mid-20th century. Private owners took control and restored the deteriorating landmark. The lighthouse is accessible only via a tour from Kohootz Boat Excursions.

Kohootz
440 East Cotter Avenue
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-779-3188
kohootz.com

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center

The Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center is rated as one of the top ten boardwalks by Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine. The center includes a large area of fresh and saltwater marshes, which are havens for over 100 species of birds. Its well-known boardwalk is 500 feet long and extends into a brackish marsh, giving visitors prime viewing of birds and the center’s resident alligators. There is also a 25-foot observation tower on the property. Admission is free.

Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Ross Avenue
Port Aransas, Texas 78373
361-749-4158
cityofportaransas.org/Leonabelle_Turnbull_Birding_Center

The Tarpon Inn

The Tarpon Inn is a historic hotel in Port Aransas known as the birthplace of Texas sport fishing. The restored building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. There are many local legends associated with the inn, many of them linked with the hard-to-catch trophy fish tarpon or “Silver Kings,” which were abundant in the area when the original inn was built in 1886. The walls of the inn have scales of tarpons caught by guests, including famous guests like President Franklin D. Roosevelt, actress Hedy Lamarr, circus owner Clyde Beatty, and cake mix maker Duncan Hines, who spent his honeymoon at the hotel. Guests who stay at the inn are encouraged to relax, therefore, the antique-filled rooms do not have televisions or phones.

The Tarpon Inn
200 East Cotter Avenue
Alvarado, TX 76009
361-749-5555
thetarponinn.com

The Beach

The beaches in the Port Aransas area draw visitors year-round. The 18 miles of unspoiled beach are a part of the world’s longest barrier island. Popular vacation activities included surfing, Jet Skiing, parasailing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, and taking scenic cruises. The city is the home to over a dozen fishing tournaments during the year.”

Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Bureau
403 West Cotter
Port Aransas, TX 78373
361-749-5919
800-45-COAST
portaransas.org

 

Fish Lips Sink Ships: Adding to the Nearshore Reef Project

Fishing and diving playground planned 10 miles from Packery Channel and Port Aransas.

"This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort." Photo courtesy of Caller.com
“This 155-freighter could become part of an artificial reef for fishing and diving offshore of Packery Channel if the Corpus Christi City Council agrees to pony up $100,000 toward the $500,000 effort.” Photo courtesy of Caller.com

Sometimes treasure can be found around sunken ships, only this treasure is of the marine-life paradise kind. As part of the Ships-to Reefs Project, these submerged ships and structures provide a foundational surface for marine life to attach. After a while, the surface builds up with coral and other marine life and the submerged ship or other structure provides shelter and a strong ecosystem for overfished reef fish species such as snapper and grouper. This project will help replenish some habitat that was destroyed when several offshore oil and gas platforms were removed in recent years. If the City of Corpus Christi agrees to foot $100,000 of the bill, the ship could be in place by the end of summer 2014.

Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program
Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Artificial Reef Program

The reefs and marine life attract other forms of treasure, fishermen and divers. This ongoing, Near Shore Reefing project has had plenty of bang for both the local and the Texas economy since off shore and recreational fishing generates 2 billion per year for Texas.  The Coast Bend, namely, Port Aransas has been known as the “fishing capital of Texas.”  The Caller Times reported that according to Mike Hurst, who chairs the offshore committee, Saltwater Fisheries Enhancement Association (SEA),”This will be one of the best dive and fishing sites long the mid-Texas Coast. We have secured the ship and are in the final stages of permitting.”

This project is set to enhance the local ecosystem for both marine treasure and human treasure, So, fish lips really do sink ships. Who knew?

Sources: The Island Moon Newspaper; KIIITV.com; Corpus Christi Caller Times; Texas Parks and wildlife