Groups to bring day of the dead festivities to campus
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 23:10
In an effort to spread cultural awareness on campus, a celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, will take place Friday in the Memorial
The Hispanic President’s Council, the Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists, the Mexican Student’s Association and the Committee for Awareness of Mexican-American Culture are collaborating with the J. Wayne Stark Galleries to organize this year’s celebrations.
Joseph Puente, executive director for the Hispanic President’s Council, said Dia de los Muertos is a time to celebrate the life of loved ones who have moved on from this world.
Puente said the celebration will take place in the J. Wayne Stark Galleries and will include a traditional altar, a Ballet Folklorico performance, papel picados and a sugar candy skull decorating competition with gift
“There is an altar set up at the J. Wayne Stark Galleries,” Puente said. “It represents an opportunity to remember a person through their favorite food, flowers, candles and especially pictures. Friday there will be a performance from Ballet Folklorico, papel picado and most importantly food.”
The event will introduce the campus to the cultural richness of the holiday, Puente said.
“There is a difference between American and Mexican culture with regards to death,” Puente said. “In American culture, it’s more about the grieving process. In Mexico, it’s a celebration of their life. They’ve come before, they’ve lived their life and you want to celebrate
Alessandra Luiselli, associate professor of Hispanic studies, said the preparation of an altar like the one that will be in the Stark Galleries is central to Dia de
“Altars are built inside homes in order to welcome those spirits that will visit us for just one day.” Luiselli said. “Those altars are never morbid. The colors of an altar have to be radiant or the spirits will not show up for the celebration. Black is the color that an altar in honor of the death should never have. The altar must display only the brightest flowers such as the cempazuchitl, a flower of the brightest orange color.”
Juan Daniel Orocio, sophomore chemical engineering major, said a feature of Dia de Los Muertos is the ofrenda, or offering, that is placed at the grave of the deceased. The ofrenda usually consists of pan del muerto, or bread of the dead, as well as the deceased person’s favorite food dish and some of their favorite items.
Orocio said even items that may have led to the person’s death, such as alcohol or cigarettes, can be placed with
“The most common thing you put there is water, which is a symbol of life,” Orocio said. “Then comes the pan del muerto, then you just place things that the person liked. My grandma really liked guitar music, so we place a guitar on there.”
Luiselli said candy skulls like the ones that will be decorated on Friday in the gallery are a common traditional element.
“A tradition is to give to our friends and family members little skulls made of sugar,” Luiselli said. “The skull that you are given to eat must have your own name written in the forehead of the skull. It is funny. I love to eat my own sweet and delicious skull. I love to eat the skulls of my friends too, and I never, ever eat the sugar skull that has the name of someone I dislike.”
Luiselli said the celebration is a fusion of two Catholic holidays – All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2 with the celebration of Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of the underworld.
“Dia de los Muertos festival is a celebration that has taken place in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times,” Luiselli said. “Its tremendous force in the national imagery of all Mexicans comes from the syncretism that took place when the Aztec civilization was forced to accept the Catholic religion that the Spaniards brought with them when they conquered Mexico in 1521. What both cultures shared was a belief in the afterlife.”