Celebrating Dia de Los Muertos

MEChA (Movimento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) de UCI hosted their annual Dia de Los Muertos Festival at the Student Center Terrace this past Wednesday evening, with over 200 people in attendance. The organization hosted many forms of entertainment including dance, face painting, food and music. This event was aimed at both celebrating the holiday and sharing the cultural experience and history connected to the traditionally Latin American celebration.

With about a month of preparation, MEChA members Yesenia Calderon and Adam Bedolla, along with a committee that consisted of around 15 to 20 people, planned the event.

The students planted two altars at the Student Terrace stage, which consisted of colorful items to honor the dead. Among these were marigolds, fruits, candles and painted skulls. Photos of lost loved ones were placed at the head of these altars.

“We want people to know that this is not an equivalent to Halloween. Rather, this is a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed away. We place photos of the dead at the altar and give offerings that they would have enjoyed. The candles and smoke placed here provide a path for the dead as well,”  Michelle Vasquez, a MEChA de UCI member, said.

The actual day of Dia de Los Muertos takes place between Nov. 1 and 2. Though it is widely connected to Mexican culture, Dia de Los Muertos is celebrated in other Latino cultures and countries around the world. This holiday focuses on bringing together family and friends to remember and celebrate loved ones that have passed. It started as long ago as 3,000 years ago and can be traced back to pre-Hispanic rituals honoring the dead. Much of the practiced Dia de Los Muertos tradition is centered on the altar, decorated with marigolds, offerings and images of the dead.

At the event, members also painted students’ faces like the colored skulls. Vasquez explained that the face paint pays homage to the famous painting “La Calavera Catrina,” which means “dapper skeleton.”

Jose Guadalupe Posada painted this in the early 1900s, and the skull has become rather iconic of the Mexican Dia de los Muertos.

MEChA also hosted elegant cultural dances from other organizations on campus. The dancers of Ballet Folklorico de UCI were adorned in flowers, wore beautiful white linen dresses and painted their faces during their performances.   Danza Azteca, a group outside of UC Irvine, also performed a half hour traditional Aztec dance. Mariachi de UCI followed, a group that had only existed for about three weeks, yet managed to get the crowd going. The group joked that their performance was only about their second time “rehearsing” for the audience. Many students danced and sang along as Mariachi de UCI performed.

After a quick break from a DJ, the South Central Skankers performed, an upbeat Ska group. Despite the freezing cold that entered the event early on, all the entertainment performed with heart and enthusiasm. Many students even circled the stage at various times to dance along to the music as well.