Dia de los muertos

By: Brittany Zendejas

Latinx organizations like Hermanas Unidas de UCI, abbreviated HAU, Ballet Folklorico de UCI, and Phi Lambda Rho sorority collaborated to provide the event with free face painting, Folklorico dancing, and also a brief historical rundown of the celebration.  

“Phi Lambda Rho has a booth about the significance of the altar, and then HAU is doing the face painting and bringing out the significance of the calavera,” said Crisantos.

A greater portion of the evening was dedicated to watching the various indigenous dance performances performed by both UCI Folklorico dancing and Grupo de Danza Azteca Toyaacan. Performers wore face paint, indigenous jewelry, and costumes.

A pivotal aspect of the holiday is the construction of an altar, or ofrenda, in honor of the deceased. Ofrendas are layered altars that are decorated with photos of the deceased, cempasuchil flowers or flor de muerto — which helps guide spirits towards their altars and mortal loved ones — and, traditionally, the deceased’s favorite food dish.

MEChA constructed a three-tiered ofrenda on the steps of the student terrace, each tier symbolizing a different plane of being. The bottom layer signified the underworld, the middle the people of earth, and the top level symbolized heaven.

Professor Glenda M. Flores, Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies, delivered a speech on behalf of the ceremony.  Her speech noted the history surrounding the holiday.

“Day of the Dead is a fusion of Indigenous and Catholic background,” says Flores. “It is being increasingly celebrated in other countries like the Caribbean, South America, and Central America.”

The holiday’s prevalence has garnered recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) who in 2008 recognized the holiday as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Flores believes there is more to gain while educating people on Dia de Los Muertos: she ended her speech saying, “One thing I would say is that it is great to see this one element of Latino culture being accepted, but also to be cognizant of accepting the people that celebrate it as well.”