By Jarod Golub
While some students at this university recovered from Halloween festivities, members and non-members of the Latinx community came together to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, Nov. 1.
This cultural holiday is not the Latinx version of Halloween. Instead, it is two days dedicated to celebrating the lives of dead family members.
“We celebrate to honor our ancestors and the good times they had, rather than mourning,” said senior criminal justice major Dioni Gomez. “It’s really amazing that we can bring our culture here to the United States where sometimes we can be so submerged into American culture.”
The Multicultural Involvement and Community Advocacy coordinator for Latinx student involvement Yvette Lerma-Jones said the chance to share her culture “makes it easier to be away from home.”
The celebration on November 1 was complete with sugar skulls, paper marigolds and pan de muerto — a bread made specially for Dia de los Muertos. Gomez, the president of The Coalition of Latinx Student Organizations, gave a presentation informing the students and families about the holiday.
According to Gomez’s presentation, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated in El Salvador, Spain, Peru, the Philippines, Mexico and the United States among other countries. While some of the Dia de los Muertos staples are seen everywhere it is celebrated, traditions vary by country.
In many countries it is common to set up altars inside the home with objects that were important to the deceased loved ones. Some people also visit cemeteries to clean the graves of ancestors.
“For me, thinking about this holiday, it’s remembering sitting in the evenings when it was just about sunset with [my grandmother] at her mom’s grave,” said Lerma-Jones. “Thinking about those moments … all the people that would come by, even though it is a personal holiday, you end up sharing with them and it becomes this community joining together in an evening that a lot of people think is sad, but ends up being really heartwarming.”
For some students, the atmosphere of the Dia de los Muertos celebration highlighted the contrast in how death is viewed in Latinx culture versus American culture.
“When I came to the United States, it was a big shock to me at the time that death was one of those topics that people wouldn’t talk about,” said MICA Graduate Coordinator for Cross-Cultural Student Involvement Danica Limon. “It seemed like people were afraid of death. In our culture it isn’t something to fear … I don’t really see death as a bad thing, but as an opportunity to celebrate someone’s life.”
Even students who did not have Latinx heritage found meaning in the celebrations.
“I currently have a grandfather who is at the end of his life, and this has given me a new way to look at his death,” said freshman computer science major Noah McCord. “Rather than looking at all the negative things he experienced towards the end, it’s given me a chance to focus on the wonderful things he got to do during this part of his life.”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of WikiCommons.
Jarod Golub is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.