Published: October 30, 2015
The melody of salsa music, the scent of Mexican food and the lights of luminaries will fill the first floor of the Denaples Center 10:30 p.m. Friday. The Cross Cultural Centers, The Jane Kopas Women’s Center (JKWC) and the Multicultural Center, will hold the first annual Día de los Muertos celebration at The University. Catholic communities, especially those in Latin America, traditionally recognize Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” as a celebration of All Souls’ Day. However, the events span cultural borders.
Justine Johnson, head of JKWC, has worked closely alongside Delicia Alarcon, the new program coordinator of the Cross Cultural Centers, to organize the festivities.
“It’s a recognition for us, through the Cross-Cultural Center, of cultural celebrations globally that other cultures may recognize—like All Souls’ Day—very differently.”
The event will combine educational and cultural components with the dance and music that previous attendees of “Latin Explosion” will recognize. One of the major traditions that students will have an opportunity to learn about at the event is facepainting.
“Day of the dead has very powerful face painting and dress that goes along with it,” Johnson said.
Traditionally, celebrants of Day of the Dead wear face-paint that represents Catrina, a female skeleton often associated with the holiday.
Senior Leeza Tirado, student ambassador of the Multi-Cultural center, explained the significance of facepainting in Mexican culture.
“they do a lot of face-painting of skeletons, but they’re not scary, which is the nice part,” she said. “They’re actually really honoring the dead. It’s a really beautiful celebration.”
In addition to honoring Latin American culture, Johnson explained that Day of the Dead will focus on remembering the deceased. “A lot of times people who celebrate day of the dead will go to cemeteries to celebrate or do other kind of recognitions,” she said. “We’ll have an honor table almost like an alter to celebrate those who have passed.”
At the honor table, community members will be invited to write the names of loved ones on luminaries. There will also be resources for those grieving loved ones about healthy ways to hold onto happy memories.
The Cross Cultural Centers hope that the event will open a dialogue about appreciating cultures without appropriating them. Johnson offered some tips cultural exploration.
“Ask authentic questions rather than stereotyping a culture,” she said. “Have conversations, come into the Multicultural Center, ask those questions to encourage critical engagement and critical dialogue.”
Tirado views the event as a reminder of the purpose of Halloween.
“It’s important for us to remember to be intentional with Halloween,” she said. “We see a lot more craziness going on that weekend, so we want people to realize what you’re celebrating. So that’s why we put such an educational spin on it because a lot of people don’t know why they’re celebrating Halloween.”
The night will provide a unique way to celebrate Halloween with dance, non-alcoholic Sangria and great memories of loved ones.
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