Get ready, mi gente. Día de los Muertos is coming and San Antonio is more than ready.
On Friday, in honor of the traditional Mexican holiday and to celebrate the city’s rich Hispanic culture, the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage will officially turn into Los Chimuelos de San Antonio for their game against the San Jose Barracuda at the AT&T Center. Pronounced chee-mueh-lohs, the nickname is Spanish for a toothless man and a nod to the many hockey players who flash incomplete smiles.
In addition, their mascot T-Bone will become El Bistec (Spanish for steak).
But that’s not all as the evening itself is to become a full on festival. Prior to puck drop, the arena will begin a celebration that includes a mariachi band, folklorico dancers, face painters, photo-ops and even a Día de los Muertos altar where fans can brings photos in memory of their loved ones.
Once entering the ice, the players will wear specialty jerseys and the goalies’ masks swill be painted as sugar skulls.
Outside of the arena, there will be a wide range of food trucks from Mexican and Latin American culture but perhaps most notably, renowned Mexican-American chef and San Antonian Johnny Hernandez will serve signature tacos and quesadillas from his restaurant La Gloria inside the arena.
“We are a country of all skin colors and San Antonio is a great example of that diversity,” Hernandez told SI.com.
“We are a city proud of our Hispanic heritage and in this changing world, now more than ever, it’s important that we take time to reflect and acknowledge and celebrate the contributions of the entire Latino community.”
For Ryan Snider, the team’s director of business operations, it was important to do more than just change a name. He wanted to make sure the Rampage honored not just the holiday but also the dedicated Hispanic community in San Antonio, so coming up with the name and all the events surrounding the evening took a lot of preparation.
“It was a lot of brainstorming, combined with focus groups and bringing in a lot people, internally and externally, from the Hispanic and Latino community in San Antonio,” says Snider who says the name Chimuelos ended up coming up from an internal employee. But aside from the identity change, it’s really a chance to celebrate a vital part of Hispanic culture.
“Nearly 64% of the population here identifies itself as Hispanic so from a business standpoint its obviously important, but really its about connecting culturally with our city,” says Snider. “That’s who we are, so it’s vital that we represent who our city is and the cultural values that we represent.”
All across the U.S., Día de los Muertos has become a holiday where Mexican and Hispanic communities bond together by teaching their children how to honor their antepasados(ancestors) as well as showing pride in their heritage.
Last year’s movie Coco is a good example on how awareness for the Mexican holiday has expanded beyond Hispanic and Latino communities. But all across the nation—from Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden and its two-day festival to Museo del Barrio in New York City—the holiday is part of American culture and in sporting events specifically, it’s a perfect chance to bring fans together, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Here’s to you, Los Chimuelos de San Antonio. Now send me one of those sugar skull hockey masks.