Dressed in a skeleton suit and a colorful skull mask, Miguel Coeto insisted there was nothing ghoulish about his attire.
"We don't dress to scare people. We dress to enjoy the dead, and enjoy the day," said the 44-year-old Memphian who grew up in Central Mexico.
Coeto and about 150 others participated Saturday in the inaugural Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade through Midtown Memphis. Replacing a smaller celebration held in the Hickory Hill area, the event marked the beginning of festivities observing the traditional Mexican holiday to honor, remember and support deceased loved ones.
Beginning before 11 a.m. in Overton Square, a procession that took more than 20 minutes to pass wound down Madison and then over to Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Overton Park, where an ensuing festival lasted into the afternoon.
It featured dancing skeletons, women dressed in traditional embroidered white gowns from Veracruz, Mexico, as well as people donned in colorful attire and white face paint.
And although the holiday's origins trace to Central and Southern Mexico, Saturday's event attracted a diverse cross-section of local residents.
"That's the beautiful thing," said Dorimar Ferrer, director of the CazaTeatro Bilingual Theatre Group, which help organize the event. "You have (white) Americans, African-Americans, a lot of Hispanics -- all together."