Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead

Seth Bradshaw

Led by the College of Migrant Program (CAMP), LC State joined with millions of people across the Americas in celebrating Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 2, 2021.

Mariana’s Tamales catered the celebration, which was attended by 19 students and staff members, and was held at the Williams Conference Center.

Students participated in traditioal celebrations, including coloring sugar skulls. This year was the inaugural celebration and CAMP leaders hope to grow the event to a campus-wide celebration moving forward. For those wishing to celebrate in future years, it might be helpful to provide a brief overview of Día de los Muertos.

Truth be told, my family did not observe the holiday growing up, even though I am Chicano and my mother’s first language was Spanish.

I started celebrating Día de los Muertos when my wife and I moved to Tucson, AZ, where our two oldest children were born, and we have been observing the holiday as a family over the past 10 years.

At the heart of Día de los Muertos is the concept of mestizaje. Mestizaje refers to cultural and racial mixing, primarily between Indigenous Americans and Spanish conquistadors.

In the context of Día de los Muertos, it refers to the religious blending of Spanish Catholicism and pre-Columbian Mesoamerican rituals.

For example, the holiday is typically observed on Nov. 1 and 2, which correspond to the Catholic holidays All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day.

In the Mexican tradition, Nov. 1 is Día de los Inocentes (Day of the Children), and Nov. 2 is Día de los Muertos.

For many, the holiday is simply a time or remembrance for loved ones who have passed. Others adhere to the belief that the holiday represents a time when the dead can pass from the land of the dead back to the land of the living for a brief visit.

To assist in this journey, living relatives build an ofrenda (alter or offering) decorated with supplies to help them on their journey.

Adherents decorate their ofrendas with marigolds, the orange and sometimes red flowers, that cover
the three levels of alter. The idea is that the smell is so strong that it helps call the souls to the land of the living.
Additional decorations include photos of loved ones, candles, sugar skulls, painted skulls, liquid, pan de muerto (bread of the dead), and even more.

Each year we’ve added new elements to how we observe the holiday. This year was the first year
I made pan de muerto. Like many people, I’ve used the pandemic to perfect my breadmaking skills and this was a great opportunity to try something new (https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/7224/pan-de-muertos-mexican-bread-of-the-dead/).

It is important to point out that there is no one right way to celebrate. Every family and country has
their own traditions. I hope you will join us next year and start a new tradition—I’ll bring the bread and tamales.