There was a feeling of love, respect, and passion in the air. From majestic tribal dances, to well choreographed performances, to cute little kids riding their make-believe horse as rancheritas, there was plenty to enjoy at the Fullerton College Dia de Los Muertos celebration on Wednesday.
Calpuli Techuani, a former Hornet and alumnus of Institute of American Indian Arts, kicked off the event with a strong performance. He was on campus to represent the Nahuatl people, a tribe native to central Mexico and the Aztec people.
“Today we celebrate and preach Meni in Miquetl, which translates to long live the Dead,” Techuani explained. “We are here to promote the teaching of Native American History, which is what I was taught here at Fullerton College by Professor Jerry Padilla. He took us to the Pima Indian Reservation in Arizona when I was a student.”
Padilla was in attendance at the event, and came over to share that he is retired, but taught many Hornets in his 48 years of teaching.
Dressed in full jaguar costume, the performance included dancing, prayers, and maracas. Each prayer or offering faced each direction of the campus (North, South, East, and West). A copal had incense coming from it, and Techuani, along with Tochtli Vichique and Tata Techuani rotated between dance, chant, and the rhythmic banging of the huehuetl (large drum) using two pala (wooden mallets).
There were also lots of intricate dances, including a beautiful production done by young men and women. The boys were dressed in all white suits with pink, blue, and green stripes woven around the chest and shoulders, straw hats, and holding large candles as they danced across the cement. The girls wore flowy black dresses with large white ruffles. The dresses had colorful floral designs on them, and the girls wore a large, white headdress. All who performed had half their face painted like a skull.
What cannot be lost in this celebration is the importance of an ofrenda. An ofrenda is an altar or table where pictures of loved ones who have died are displayed, and things such as food, gifts, or mementos are placed on these altars to show respect.
Sophomore Jessica Weightman was one of the people who contributed to the Ethnic Studies ofrenda. “We placed political and civil rights activists on our ofrenda. I chose Ruth Bader Ginsberg to honor her and all she did for this country.”
The campus quad was full of students, alumni, staff, and community members watching the performances, getting free tacos, and viewing ofrendas. “Teaching others about this culture is fun, but also important considering the strong Latin community we have here at Fullerton College,” Weightman said
Dr. Byron Breland attended the event, and spoke to the crowd gathered in front of the Fullerton College Library.
“I am really impressed with the turnout and how engaged people are. It’s clear how visible Fullerton College is in the community,” Breland said. “I believe it’s important to engage each other and be together, and that’s being done here tonight.”