As the aroma of food and the pound of drums beckoned, Fullerton College’s quad was transformed into a kaleidoscope of color, music and culture.
This year marked the 26th anniversary of the Dia de los Muertos celebration, as Fullerton College continues to serve as a beacon for celebration and diversity.
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead as it is commonly referred to, is a Latin American holiday dating back centuries. Serving as a remembrance of those who have passed away, it is a celebration of life while laughing in the face of death.
Altars were adorned with bright colors, flowers, candles and food; each symbolic of the journey souls take to revisit their loved ones. Many were dressed with ribbons in their hair, and skull faces painted in stark black and white.
Candles danced over old photographs of caregivers and parents, famous figures and fighters; their individual stories immortalized by those who continue to remember them.
Monica Lopez-Yang, memorialized her father, Jose M. Lopez, a former professor at California State University Long Beach and defense attorney, representing underage gang members.
“He was in a gang in his teens,” Lopez-Yang said. “He served time and decided to turn his life around. He got his high school diploma in prison. When he got out he went to college and earned three degrees, including his PhD in Political Science.”
Casting a shadow over the celebrations was talk of the current political climate, as many emphasized standing together in unity over adversity.
Andres Martinez, of FC United, shed a personal light on the current issue of Latin American immigration. Among the candles were the faces of children, each having lost their lives within US detention centers in the past year.
“Empathy,” Martinez said. “If you truly get to know a person, know their story, know why they’re leaving their countries to come to this beautiful country, then you’ll have a greater understanding. We need to start a conversation and bring empathy into the current laws.”
Surrounding the children were monarch butterflies, who make a yearly journey across the continent from Mexico to Canada.
“The monarch travels across continents and borders do not stop it,” Martinez continued. “The undocumented movement adopted that image because it’s our ideology. The world does not have borders.”
Estefenia Cervantes, the co-president of the Puente Club, admitted to fears of hostility against the celebration, “It is a little scary to think about something like this being under threat. I almost had a scare today.”
However, she remained optimistic about the overarching message of the celebration, “Today is beautiful. It’s a great way to share culture. we’re remembering all these people, great stories and the great things that they’ve done.”
Beyond celebrations, James Swartz, an Entertainment Arts major, reminisced about the continued survival of Latin Americans, in the face of constant struggle. “Day of the Dead was almost eradicated,” Swartz said. “A lot of Mexican culture was almost eradicated. But it found a way to survive. We’re strong enough to get through it. Survival is part of the Latin American spirit.”
In spite of any challenges, the vigor of the Latin American community within Fullerton remains strong, as the memory of loved ones passed continues to live on. The Day of the Dead is a tenant to the continued struggle and survival of diversity.