October 30, 2022
Austin icon Lucinda Hutson‘s festive garden is always a joy to visit. But for the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, she pulls out all the stops in her decorating. Smiling skeletons dangle from trees, gates, umbrellas, and the front porch.
At night, purple lights give an extra glow to her purple casita in the Rosedale neighborhood.
I had the pleasure of an evening visit last Monday to see Lucinda’s altars by candlelight. Yes, I said altars, plural. For most who celebrate Day of the Dead — a remembrance of departed loved ones, with altars showcasing their photos, favorite foods, and mementoes — one altar would be sufficient. But for Lucinda there are no half measures with decorating. I counted three large altars throughout her home, with many more Day of the Dead vignettes in every room and the garden. It’s beautiful, and the impact is soulful.
The altar in her living room is dedicated to her beloved Sancho Rey, her mellow and friendly black cat who used to greet visitors on the front sidewalk. He passed away this year, but his memory lives on and is celebrated here.
A handsome boy
I love this vignette of Sancho’s photo, a photo of Lucinda’s prickly pear with his name etched in it, and a seed packet of catnip illustrated with a Sancho lookalike.
A white faux pumpkin with flowery inked-on detail — a perfect complement to the black-and-white shawl that drapes the altar.
Lucinda’s dining room is an homage to all things Day of the Dead that she’s collected over the decades: 20-year-old Mexican sugar skulls, pull-string coffins, festive plates, an Aly Winningham tile mosaic, tin milagros, and more.
The antique sugar skulls always astonish me — not only their detail and patina (from altar candles) but that Lucinda has been able to preserve them for so many years.
On a sideboard she displays a luminous collection of silver servingware and more sugar skulls.
Across the room, another buffet displays ceramic candle holders, vessels, and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Sugar skulls line the window sash.
A beaded skull peeks through a window.
In Lucinda’s back room, a pair of dangling devils and skeleton mermaid draw your eye to the window.
A stack of books about tequila is not unexpected in the home of the author of Viva Tequila!
More Mexican folk art
Lucinda’s second large altar resides here, this one adorned with marigolds, dozens of skeletons, and pics of her dad 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 at right. I believe that’s her grandmother in the middle.
And her aunt on the left, if I remember right
Under a pretty lamp, I spy a photo of Sancho’s elegantly crossed paws.
When Lucinda turned off the lights, the altar came to life, light from glass skull candleholders dappling the photos.
Above the door, a portrait of Lucinda’s grandmother watches over the room. The same Mexican blouse that Grandmother is wearing in the portrait seems to soar over the room, the sleeves outstretched like angel wings. The blouse was handed down to Lucinda many years ago, who cropped it for a more youthful style and probably went dancing in it. She now displays it as part of her family’s history, and waits for all their spirits to return to visit the living on this one night of the year.
For a look back at my tour of Lucinda’s Day of the Dead garden, which I visited last week, click here.
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