While Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) may be a somber festivity by title, the celebration is unraveled with overflowing, “…color, music, and the unmistakable fragrances of its wonderful cuisine” to honor the departed souls of loved ones.
On November 2nd, the Multicultural Center collaborated with LULAC, MASA, SHPE, SLG, and SLA to present Dia De Los Muertos at the Student Union Plinth from 7:00-9:00PM. It is a time where families, friends and loved ones gather together to remember the deceased; however, rather than insult the dead by mourning over them, people come together to celebrate them through a myriad of festivities ranging from food, drinks, games, and activities the deceased had enjoyed during their time on this planet.
Dia de los muertos originated during the primary contact between Mesoamerica and Europe in the 16th century when the Spanish Conquistadores first arrived and is primarily celebrated in South America, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Because of this, the festival has roots tied to both Aztec ritual and Catholicism.
In celebration of this holiday we presented the main elements such as the food, the beverages, the altar, the decorations and the festivities. We served traditional foods and beverages such as tamales, pan de muerto, champurrado, atole de vanilla. Music is an important part to help contribute to the celebrations as it helps to awaken the deceased from their eternal sleep so that they may partake in the celebrations with their loved ones. To fully immerse ourselves into the culture we called upon El Mariachi los Caborales again. They were a wonderful addition to the celebration and provided us with traditional music that took us back to Latin American roots. Finally no festivity is complete without decorations. People usually decorate the venue with papeles picados, “…vibrant, artfully perforated tissue paper that drapes windowsills and doorways.” To tie everything together our entire staff dressed up as Las Katrinas, the female version of the grim reaper. In order to fully immerse themselves, people decorate their faces like Calaveras; however they only decorate half of their face. The half face is meant to represent the duality of life; that no matter how beautiful of well-dressed somebody may be, they will eventually become nothing more than a skeleton or a skull. But, while the flesh may have deteriorated, the cultural associations transcend beyond death.
Dia de los muertos is actually called Dias de los muertos, as the festivities span the time of two days. The first, Dia de los Inocentes, honors the children who have died. Their graves are typically decorated with white orchids and baby’s breath to symbolize the purity and the innocence of a young child; on November 2, Dia de los Muertos, we honor adults, whose graves are decorated with bright orange marigolds.
Finally no festivity is complete without decorations. People usually decorate the venue with papeles picados, “…vibrant, artfully perforated tissue paper that drapes windowsills and doorways.” However the most important aspect of the celebration is the altar. As we all gather together to remember our loved ones family members often clean and decorate the graves of their loved ones. The dead are honored through ofrendas, personal altars for each deceased member. The ofrenda usually consist of photos, candles, food, drinks, flowers, Calaveras (sugar skulls meant to represent the deceased) and personal keepsakes from the deceased.
Check out this video from an animation depicting Dia deLos Muertos. Written and directed by Ashley Graham, Kate Reynolds and Lindsey St. Pierre. The film won Gold Medal at the 2013 Student Academy Award for Best Animated Short: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-v4-1wFEzM0