The UCI Latinx Resource Center (LRC) hosted Celebrando Nuestros Difuntos at the Student Center Terrace during the first week of November.
The event’s purpose was to bring together UCI’s Latinx community to celebrate culture, families, communities and history.
Celebrando Nuestros Difuntos is a call to a widely-celebrated event throughout several Latin American communities, Dia de Los Muertos. Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead in English, is a two-day celebration that brings together families of the living and dead. It is a holiday that honors both life and death, and it is unique in that communal mourning is replaced with celebration.
The center wanted to ensure that the Latinx community at UCI was brought together to exemplify the beauty in mourning.
Art history graduate student and LRC intern Isabella Leon spoke about the event’s importance in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We wanted to create a space where students can come to celebrate but also mourn through some of the activities that we had,” Leon said.
The event was split up into two parts. The first celebration called the Recordando, also known as Latinx America’s Customs of Remembrance, took place on Nov. 9. The event included a presentation given by LRC interns about how the holiday is observed in different countries.
Additionally, Leon spoke about her favorite part of Monday’s event.
“For me, just hearing from people like Josue Ruedas [another LRC intern] speaking about his family … seeing administration in a vulnerable position, and knowing that they have backgrounds that they share with us — [that] was really special to me,” Leon said.
Fourth-year public health sciences student and LRC intern Lesley Osorio also described what the event meant to her.
“I definitely think events like this instill a sense of community on campus. It can bring people from those groups together and let students have a ‘home away from home’ and feel welcomed on campus,” Osorio said.
Osorio added that the sense of community celebrating cultural events on campus offers all students a place to come together to engage with and support one another.
“Celebrating events like this can be a great way for all students to learn more about other [cultures] on campus. It can help bring awareness about different cultural practices and learn to enjoy and appreciate them with others,” Osorio said.
The second event, which was more of a social gathering, was held on Nov. 5.
The event featured free Mexican pan dulce, hot chocolate and coffee for attendees to enjoy. Both Ballet Folklorico de UC Irvine and a local mariachi group performed. Arts and craft activities were also available for guests.
Leon, a former baile folklorico dancer, stated that Ballet Folklorico’s performance was her favorite part of Friday’s event.
“Baile folklorico is so [important] — getting to create a dance that calls back to my heritage was really important to me. My family was able to come and just knowing my grandparents met through it — that [is] so critical,” Leon said.
After the event, Leon noted that the center was flooded with positive feedback.
“Having a space where they could come celebrate and [witness] a cultural celebration that they would get at home — or maybe not get at home — was really cool. I know the dancers — everyone I’ve heard from so far with dancers and their families — really appreciated being able to come together and get dressed up and celebrate their own culture,” Leon said.
Osorio further spoke on the sense of community that the LRC provides.
“I do believe that having dedicated campus organizations … based around identity is important so that students from different backgrounds can find their space on campus and feel welcomed,” Osorio said.
The events had a great turnout from both the Latinx and from the broader UCI community, and the LRC continues to work throughout the year to put on more events that highlight the Latinx communities on campus.
Leda Abkenari is a Campus News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.