Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday that is celebrated throughout Central and Southern Mexico between October 31st and November 2nd. It is believed that on the 31st, the gates of heaven are opened up, and the spirits of deceased children are allowed to reunite with their families. On the second of November, the spirits of the adults who have passed are able to join in the festivities set up by their families and loved ones. This past weekend, the Center for Student Involvement and students from the organizations H.A.L.O. and Dreamers United for Success, along with Coordinator of Diversity Affairs Amber White and Multicultural Admissions Counselor Hector Villanueva, helped to bring this cultural tradition onto the Fort Hays campus.
Starting October 31st and continuing until November 2nd, students had the opportunity to visit a traditional ofrenda, an altar honoring the deceased, that was set up in the Memorial Union. This altar was filled with photographs, sugar skulls, and items that loved ones cherished while they were alive. Carla Parra-Martinez, the president of H.A.L.O., shared that the purpose of bringing this event to campus was to expose students to different cultures and allow them to see, and participate in a unique tradition that they have probably never experienced before.
This is not the first time that Parra-Martinez has partaken in this tradition. “My family resides in Mexico, so in past years I’ve been able to be there when this tradition is taking place. Aside from the altar, many families- including mine- spend the day at the cemetery and there we do things such as clean up our loved ones tombstones, decorate with flowers, have picnics and just spend the day with our loved ones.” Her favorite part about this holiday is that it is not meant to be just for mourning, but rather a celebration of the life the deceased had on earth. “It is a day filled with a lot of emotions and there is sadness, but in the end being able to spend that day with all of them is what brings joy and comfort to families.”
By sharing the Dia de Los Muertos tradition here on Fort Hays Campus, the organizations in charge hope to allow students to grow in their knowledge, respect of other cultures and walk away with is a better understanding of a part of Mexican culture.