AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hispanic Heritage Month is an exciting time for The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin. There is a week full of celebration in store for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, a traditional celebration honoring ancestors where people pay tribute to those loved ones who have passed.

The celebration will be the last big event at the MACC before a major renovation at the center set to begin later this year.

The center was established in 2007 on the historic Rainey Street. The street is now known for bars, restaurants and residential towers, but the area was once home to primarily Chicano residents in the 1950s. The center plans to stay on its grounds in central downtown Austin to stay tied to its heritage.

“The mission of the MACC is to preserve, promote and be a showcase for all the Latino Culture here in Austin and Central Texas,” said program supervisor Olivia Tamzarian in an interview with KXAN evening anchor Britt Moreno. 

The center features exhibits, events and programs that explore Mexican American culture and heritage. In mid-October, artists and community members were creating ofrendas, elaborate altars honoring people who have died, for viewing during the upcoming Dia de los Muertos event.

The two-year phase expansion will include renovation of the facility and site improvements to meet the community’s growing needs. 

“We’re going to be seeing more classrooms, a full education wing for youth and then artists’ studios because that’s something that we always are doing murals and art projects here. And then, on the other side, it will be at a cafe, sort of a culinary space. And then also a large conference room, more performance spaces,” Tamzarian said.

The groundbreaking ceremony is in December, and the project will wrap up in 2025. Until then, the center is preparing for its 15th annual celebration of Dia de los Muertos.

The celebration will kick off Tuesday, Nov. 1, with an Austin Studio Tour exhibit organized by Big Medium, a nonprofit organization dedicated to championing and cultivating artists and the contemporary arts in Austin and across Texas. An evening full of music, local food and special commissions of site-specific artwork.

An ofrenda viewing is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 2. MACC will have presentations of the altars created by community members while also featuring author Mariana of Dining with the Dead. The public is invited to contribute to the altars and enjoy bread and hot chocolate outside the gallery.

The week’s events lead to the grand fiesta “Festival On The Zocalo” on Saturday, Nov. 5. All of the events on that Saturday will be free to the public.