It wasn’t ghouls and goblins or fear and sorrow but a celebration to honor the lives of those who died that filled the Quad as many rallied and celebrated the 20th annual Dia de Los Muertos event on Halloween night.
Dia de Los Muertos or “Day of the Dead” is a celebratory holiday observed primarily in Mexico and the American Southwest from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2.
Professor and coordinator of the event, Adela Lopez, described the holiday as a celebration of life and honoring those who died. It is a reminder that death is inevitable and should be embraced.
It is a holiday with indigenous roots that is dated back thousands of years before the Europeans arrived in America. Through time and blending of the indigenous and European religious culture “Day of the Dead” formed into what it is today.
“There’s no way you can take out the indigenous pieces and have ‘Day of the Dead’ nor can you take out the Christian pieces and try to celebrate. Both are required.” Lopez said.
The holiday is rooted with much symbolism surrounding death and the Quad was filled with booths, decorations and ofrendas to remind people of that.
While children and adults were enjoying the skull candies they made at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center booth it is a reminder to the old saying “you are what you eat.”
The half painted skull on the many faces that surrounded the campus was a reminder that death is a part of life because it is inescapable, as Muckenthaler’s Executive Director Zoot Velasco described.
“It’s a tribute to ancestors, the purpose is to make fun of death,” said Velasco.
Ofrendas, a form of tribute to the dead, flooded the Quad from offerings to celebrities like pop star Selena, to activists like Caesar Chavez, to everyday people such as family members. A very special ofrenda was dedicated in honor of professor Chris Lamm.
Many who celebrate the holiday, Dia de Los Muertos is significantly different than Halloween. Administration of Gabriela Hernandez, a Sociology major, describes the holiday as meaningful and a way to bring closure in honoring the life of someone you cared for who died.
“It is significantly different than Halloween, it’s not about just getting candy,” said Hernadez. “It hits the heart and it is much more personal and close to you.”
For some, the holiday is viewed as spiritual and sacred and should be honored as such. To student Oscar Patino, who built an ofrenda to honor his grandfather, he described how taking an ethnic studies class opened his eyes to better understanding the holiday.
“The major difference between Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos is respect,” said Patino. “To me, I would consider it holy because it’s respecting those who passed.”
To others, it’s less spiritual and more of another way to honor and respect the dead. Student Guadalupe Cisneros explained that to her, Dia de Los Muertos is great way for her to connect back to her Mexican roots.
Regardless of the many opinions of what Dia de Los Muertos means to an individual, one thing they all certainly agree on is that the root of the holiday is in honor of death and not being afraid to die.
“In our culture we respect the muerte (death). We’re not afraid of it,” said Fullerton resident Jose Alvarez. “One thing is for sure we were all born and we are all going to die.”
Celebrating culture is one of the pivotal drives of the event. Although Dia de Los Muertos is primarily a Hispanic holiday many of the student-participants felt that it is important that all cultures be expressed and that this event is just one step in the many to expressing the diversity of cultures on campus.
“It is important that we embrace every culture and get to know people,” said Cisneros.
The event was a tremendous success filled with laughter and respect for both the alive and the dead, with a massive dance floor to end the night.