What is Dia de Los Muertos?
Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a significant holiday mainly observed, and originated, in Mexico; even so, it is most definitely celebrated in several other countries throughout Latin America. Each country has its unique way of celebrating this holiday but the general thought is to come together to celebrate and keep their loved ones alive in spirit and memory. Some may even say the holiday allows the deceased souls to spiritually return to earth for a few days and join their families. Some of the major activities include visits with family, visiting the cemetery, cooking/baking, setting up or crafting flowers (marigolds), and building an ofrenda.
Often families and friends come together to put together an ofrenda (an offering). Sometimes this ofrenda is built as an altar at home or somewhere special but sometimes it is put together on their loved one’s grave. It usually consists of pictures of loved ones who have passed away, perhaps objects they owned, their favorite foods, sugar skulls, candles, and various colorful and floral decorations. This is done to keep their memories and presence alive, to remind us of our love towards them and life.
The holiday consists of two major days of celebration, which can vary from country to country. The general days of celebration are from October 31st to November 2nd. On the first day (usually November 1st) it’s Dia de Los Innocentes (o Angelitos), Day of the Innocents (or angels or All Saints Day). This day celebrates deceased infants and children, and sometimes pets. “Día de los Angelitos happens the day before the big events of November 2 because it’s said the spirits of the children are so eager to come back to the land of the living, that they run ahead of the adults, who arrive a night later” [Danestrom]. The second main day (November 2nd) is All Souls Day (or Day of the Dead). This is the main day that celebrates the adults and all of the deceased souls. This is the biggest and main day of celebration.
How do students at RIT celebrate Dia De Los Muertos?
While most clubs and organizations at RIT decided to celebrate Halloween, two organizations came together to educate the community about this marvelous holiday. When I interviewed the Presidents of the organizations they spoke about why they chose to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos and the significance it has to them.
“I chose to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos because I feel that the Latin community has a lack of representation towards their cultural holidays on campus, and finding a place to celebrate them is incredibly important! “ -Zöe Zapata (President of Latin American Student Association)
“I chose Día de Los Muertos because even though everyone knows and celebrates Halloween for the costumes and the free candy—as President of the Omega Chapter of La Unidad Latina Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc., I feel that it is important to bring the holiday to RIT and its Latinx community. As a Guatemalan, Día de Los Muertos is a holiday that is celebrated to commemorate those that have passed before us. As a way to celebrate our culture while fostering community, hosting this event was important to fill the gap between the two.” -Victor Lopez (President of Omega Chapter of La Unidad Latina Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc.)
I myself also believe representation and showing support to our Latina/o community is important, which is why I chose to write about Dia de Los Muertos. I am half Mexican so it is important to me that my culture is represented and celebrated. Here at RIT, our Latina/o community may be small, but we are here! Having that support in our community is essential and these two organizations played their part! I too want to show our community my heritage, which I share with many of my peers. I hope to continue being able to share my heritage with my community through these sorts of events
I hope you learned a little more about Dia de Los Muertos and if you take part in this holiday… happy celebrations!