Students celebrate Día de los Muertos

November 9, 2012 3:44 AM 2 comments Views: 125

Hana Felein, ’14, paints a skull design on her face in celebration of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos.
Photo credit: Stefano Wach.

By Holly Ramey, Contributing Writer

This year, Allegheny’s Unión Latina and Spanish faculty sponsored a variety of events to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a Mexican tradition which honors life, culture and family.

At a late-night event on Oct. 27 in the Campus Center, students made sugar skulls and papel picado, tissue paper that is cut and designed for decorating. Their creations were later taken to Grounds For Change to be placed on an altar display.

The altar, piled high with brightly colored decorations and memorials of loved ones who have passed, is more than just a piece of artwork in this celebration.

Veronica Dantán, professor of Spanish and advisor of Unión Latina, described the significance of the skulls and the altar in the Día De Los Muertos tradition.

Dantán explained that each sugar skull is dedicated to the life of an individual human being, alive or dead. One can even make a skull for himself to reflect on life’s temporality.

Each life being honored also receives an altar which should reflect what the individual was like when he or she was alive. Typically altars are decorated with items such as the individual’s favorite music, food and drink.

“In that sense, we feel their spirit and their influence in us are still present,” said Dantán.

Unlike a gravestone, which have a sorrowful connotation, the altar welcomes the dead’s spirit to remain among the living.

“It is like saying, ‘We haven’t forgotten you. We know you are with us at every moment but today especially,’” said Dantán.

Neal Shah, ’15, co-hosted another Día De Los Muertos event held Nov. 2 in the
Max Kade International Lobby of North Village.

He said that Día De Los Muertos is a two-day event. The first day honors children that have passed; the second, adults.

“It is different from Halloween, where you think of demons coming at you,” Shah said. “It is instead a joyous day.”

Sharon Zavala, ‘15, explained that Día de los Muertos is based off Aztec traditions that date back to the sixteenth century.

“Although this celebration is associated with the dead, it is not portrayed as morbid or depressing but rather a time of happiness, color and fun,” Zavala said in an e-mail.

Participating in events such as these help to preserve ancient culture.

Ziania Narvaez-Garcia, ’15, believes Unión Latina has helped her learn more about her own culture.

“Although my family has always known about Día de los Muertos, it was not something that we actively celebrated,” Narvaez-Garcia said in an e-mail

At the event held in North Village, Dantán gave a lecture titled, “Ranchera Blues Over A Rainbow: Celebrating the Life and Death of Chavela Vargas.”

The lecture focused on the life of Chavela Vargas, a famous female Mexican Rancheras singer.
This type of music often dealt with a man’s unrequited love, accompanied by a small ensemble of instruments similar to a mariachi band. Vargas sang in this style, with her open identity as a lesbian, breaking the barriers of what it meant to be a Rancheras singer.

Vargas was iconic in her ability to re-define the Rancheras genre. Dantán said she believes it is important to celebrate Vargas’ life in the context of Día de los Muertos, because she was an influential woman in the past, present and future.

“Vargas opened up new paths for women and men that came after her,” Dantán said. “She gave many of us hope for new roads of the future.”

Unión Latina’s upcoming schedule for Latino Heritage Month includes a presentation from a keynote speaker Kenya Dworkin.

Professor Wilfredo Hernández, Unión Latina’s second advisor, knows Dworkin on a professional level. He said that Dworkin investigates the presence of Spanish writings in American colonial literature

“She is interested in showing how multicultural the United States was,” Hernández said.

He said he believes that not many people consider this an important topic, and for this reason Dworkin’s visit should be informative.

Hernández added that the celebration of Latino Heritage Month as a whole is important. People can evoke memories from the past and learn more about themselves in the present.

“We want the community to know more about the cultural meanings of these celebrations,” Hernández said.

He encouraged the Allegheny community to learn about Latin-American heritage by participating in the month’s events and experiencing the culture for themselves.

During the rest of the month, Unión Latina will sponsor a fundraiser for the Pulsera Project to help improve economic hardships in Nicaragua.

Additionally, AquiTango, a quartet of musicians accompanied by two tango dancers, will also visit campus to explain the significance of tango dance and music. This event will include music along with an explanation of the genre and a tango dancing performance.

  • Tiffany Ng

    The person pictured here is named Hana Falein, Class of 2014. Please make edits. This is embarrassing. Furthermore, Maya Jones is also in the Class of 2014.

    • campuseditor

      All changed. Thanks for telling us!

Other News

  • Featured Features Playshop ends year with School For Lies

    Playshop ends year with School For Lies

    By CHRISTINA BRYSON Junior Editor The Allegheny College Playshop Theatre will present School for Lies, written by David Ives and adapted from The Misanthrope by Molière, April 24 through 27. Director Mark Cosdon admires Molière’s work and his comic style. “Molière devised a comic style that was brilliantly cutting and satiric and contemporary, skewering all who feel victim to his poison pen,” wrote Cosdon in a director’s note. The play runs for two hours with a 15 minute intermission [...]

    Read more →
  • Science

    This Week in Science 4-25-14

    By Amanda Spadaro Science Editor Scientists have now determined when they believe that the sex chromosomes in humans appeared, approximately 180 million years ago. While there are obvious biological differences between the sexes, they are all dependent on the presence of the Y chromosome, which is what determines maleness. Researchers initially believed that the Y chromosome evolved from the X chromosome, but current research suggests that these sex genes appeared because of changes in global temperature. University of Lausanne’s [...]

    Read more →
  • Science

    Just for the health of it Columnist: Fitness is a battle of you versus you

    By GAVIN NIRMAIER Columnist   This week, I have witnessed many acts of poor gym etiquette at the Wise Center. I do not know any of the offenders personally, nor am I condemning those people for their actions. Simply, I felt that this is a topic that may not be familiar to people, and would like to take this opportunity to attempt to educate the Allegheny community about proper gym etiquette. At a public gym like the Wise Center, [...]

    Read more →
  • Opinion

    The power of photos

    By CAITIE MCMEKIN Photo Editor   I came to Allegheny College with a passion for photography and was at first unsure of how I would go about pursuing it. When I saw The Campus as an outlet for that passion, I was drawn to telling a story with my photos. When I first saw my photos in print, it was awesome, but it was more than that. Working with such a close-knit staff that became some of my closest [...]

    Read more →
  • Opinion

    ReproCo: Just the Tips Surviving long distance

    By CASANDRA DELLAS Contributing Writer   As the school year winds down, many couples are now facing the problem: what do we do during the summer? When the ability to see your significant other goes from walking across the quad, to driving/flying across the states (or seas!), summer can seem quite daunting. This time can also be difficult because couples are unable to be intimate with one another for extended periods of time. So this week’s Just the Tips [...]

    Read more →
  • Opinion

    Senior Column: Pat Jameson

    By Pat Jameson Sports Editor I joined the editorial staff fairly late in my career at Allegheny College. After basically ghost writing for two years, I became Sports Editor during this fall and quickly realized how woefully unprepared I was for the insane atmosphere of the newsroom. Everything from impending deadlines, flaring tempers and unruly technology were an everyday occurrence in our cramped closet, I mean office. However, despite the psychotic nature of our small news “family,” my colleagues at [...]

    Read more →
  • Opinion

    Egyptian scholar reflects on experience

    By REEM ABOU ELENAIN Copy Editor   “What made you choose Allegheny College?” people would ask me. Well, I did not choose Allegheny College; it chose me. I came to the United States and to Allegheny College as a part of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program (FLTA). I started filling in the application back in April 2012 thinking that I would never be selected. Sixteen months later, I was sitting in the Pittsburgh airport waiting to be [...]

    Read more →
  • Opinion

    Editor-in-chief bids farewell

    By COLLEEN PEGHER Editor-in-Chief   From the time I was about 12 years old, I wanted to be a sports journalist. Every day, I would come home from school and turn on ESPN to watch “Around the Horn.” I loved watching sports writers like Bill Plaschke, Woody Paige and Bob Ryan debate about the latest sports news, and I idolized Jackie MacMullan, one of only two women to appear on the show’s panel. I wanted so much to be [...]

    Read more →