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ASU community shows culture is alive with celebration of Día de Los Muertos

Día de Los Muertos events will take place across several ASU campuses

“Dia de Los Muertos” for Melissa Robbins 10-21-18.jpg

"Personalized offerings are often left at altars to commemorate a deceased loved one.” Illustration published Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.

ASU community members are creating vivid artwork, laying out heartfelt offerings and sending invitations as they prepare celebrations for Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on Nov. 2. 

Día de Los Muertos events can be seen across ASU’s campuses and throughout the week. According to ASU’s event calendar, some University groups celebrating the holiday include the Downtown Communication Club, B-Town and the Hispanic Honor Society

Día de Los Muertos is a celebration of life and death that has roots in both Aztec tradition and the Catholic All Saints Day and All Souls Day. 

Events vary in date and nature but share a common theme: cultural awareness. Itzel Carrera, the treasurer for the Hispanic Honor Society and a junior accounting student who is hispanic, said the club's celebration of Día de Los Muertos can offer students their first taste of Mexican and Latin American culture. 

“Whether it’s your first or you’ve celebrated Día de Los Muertos before, we want to give people a chance to experience the feeling,” Carrera said. 

The Hispanic Honor Society’s event will take place Saturday, Nov. 2 at ASU’s West campus. The event will start at 5 p.m. and take place at Fletcher Lawn. According to the online invitation, all students are invited. 

Carrera said the Hispanic Honor Society has hosted events that garnered attention from curious students in the past, and she is excited to answer any questions attendees may have.  

“When people ask about the culture itself, it makes for a more in-depth event,” she said. “The more people who ask questions, the more people are aware of not only Día de Los Muertos but the culture behind it as well.” 

She said some Hispanic Honor Society officers will be dressing up and the celebration will have a photo booth. 

Christine Marin, professor emeritus and founder of the Chicano/a Research Collection in Hayden Library at ASU, said the University has provided students an opportunity to express their culture for many years. 

Marin, who is Mexican American, said the public display of ofrendas, or offerings, are a popular way of celebrating Día de Los Muertos at ASU. 

Personalized offerings are often left at altars to commemorate a deceased loved one. These offerings are often tailored around the person being celebrated. Though altars are often created for ancestors, they can also celebrate public figures or friends as well. 

“Ofrendas celebrate history, culture, language and it brings forward something about the person’s culture or life,” Marin said. 

She said the annual displays could offer someone unfamiliar to the culture an authentic look at Día de Los Muertos celebrations. 

“Culture is displayed through art, through nature, through faith or religion,” Marin said. “Ofrendas celebrate the day or highlight the event, but most importantly they honor the deceased.”

A common misconception about Día de Los Muertos is its association with Halloween, Marin said. She said that though Halloween and Día de Los Muertos fall in a similar time frame, there is no connection between the two. 

Rafael Esquer,  a program coordinator for Barrett downtown, said he is thrilled to see people “create positive memories” and re-establish what the day signifies at B-Town’s Día de Los Muertos event on Oct. 30. 

“There are a lot of misconceptions about the day, and anyone who attends will have the opportunity to re-learn what it’s meant to be,” Esquer said. 

He said cultural expression can play a large role in identifying with the ASU community. 

“In order to feel engaged in a community, it’s important to be able to express yourself,” Esquer said. “ASU provides a space for students to express themselves as they wish, and part of that can be celebrating events like these.” 

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