Campus celebrates Dia de los Muertos

The Campus Center lobby transformed into an authentic celebration for the Day of the Dead when Union Latina sponsored an event to celebrate Dia de los Muertos on Friday, Oct. 30.

As students decorated sugar skulls, made tissue paper flowers and had their faces painted, Latina  music played in the background throughout the event.

“This is one of the largest events that UL sponsors,” said Morgan Hazzard, ’17, vice president of UL.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in central and southern Mexico. Traditional belief is that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on Oct. 31, and the spirits of deceased children are permitted to reunite with family members for 24 hours. On Nov. 2, adult spirits come to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.

In preparation for the Day of the Dead, friends and family make “calaveras,” sugar skulls and decorate altars with flowers to honor the dead. Food and water are also used as offerings to honor those who have passed

“It is a celebration to honor the dead and to allow them a safe passage,” Hazzard said.

Hazzard helped to teach students how to make tissue paper flowers. After the flowers were made, participants were able to attach a label with the name of a deceased friend or family member. The flowers that were made at the event will be used to decorate an altar in Grounds for Change.

This is the first year that the event was held in the Campus Center and the activities were combined into one evening of festivities. In the past, the activities were split up and held on different nights.

“There was no real homesickness, there was lots of nice things and profound feelings being shared all the time,” said Angela Jimenez Barriocanal, Spanish teaching assistant.

Barriocanal spent nine months in Mexico City where she experienced traditional Mexican culture and holidays firsthand.

“Mexico also gave me the chance to live there in an authentic and genuine atmosphere and discover what Dia de los Muertos means and how it is celebrated,” she said. “This is a special day when everything and everyone that passed away is commemorated. And that is the true meaning of the day, to make us feel that we are not here forever.”

There were workshops where students could decorate traditional sugar skulls and have their faces painted. The bright colors used in the face painting are supposed to create a sense of positivity.

Participating for the first time, Ayodele Hamilton, ’18, helped paint faces at the celebration.

“There has to be a deadness look to it, but it is still meant to celebrate someone’s life and their memory,” Hamilton said, describing the approach to painting faces.

Starkwan Bethea, ’18, served as the DJ for the evening. The music was entirely Latina. Rhythms like bachata, salsa and cumbia accompanied the activities. Along with the authentic sound, participants snacked on Mexican sweets and real Mexican cafe de olla, Mexican coffee.

Before the event ended, a collective prayer was led in order to commemorate the spirit of the day.

“It wasn’t a typical prayer. It was not focused on any specific religious aspect. It was a fully spiritual and wholehearted act,” Barriocanal said. “We remembered Hannah Morris who recently passed away, and we felt blessed for being together and to know each other here in Allegheny.”

Barriocanal believes that this event helped her recognize the new friendships that she is creating at Allegheny, and she thanked everyone who came to the event for supporting Union Latina.