Día de los Muertos
"Here's a brief summary of the celebration of Día de muertos, the events being prepared in the college and my personal view of why is it important to learn and participate in other countries' cultural activities."
- Amelia Moreno
When the Spanish Conquistadors landed in what is now Mexico, they encountered natives practicing a ritual that seemed to mock death. It was a ritual the indigenous people had been practicing at least 3,000 years. A ritual the Spaniards would try unsuccessfully to eradicate. A ritual known today as Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
Unlike the Spaniards, who viewed death as the end of life, the natives viewed it as the continuation of life. Instead of fearing death, they embraced it. To them, life was a dream and only in death they become truly awake. However, the Spaniards considered the ritual to be sacrilegious. They perceived the indigenous people to be barbaric and pagan. In their attempts to convert them to Catholicism, the Spaniards tried to kill the ritual. But like the old Aztec spirits, the ritual refused to die. To make the ritual more Christian, the Spaniards moved it, so it coincided with All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day (Nov. 1st and Nov. 2nd ), which is when it is celebrated today.
Generalizing broadly, the holiday's activities consist of:
- Welcoming their dead love ones back into their homes, and
- visiting the graves of their close kin.
In Mexico and other Latin American countries families build at home, an Altar de muertos in honor of deceased relatives, decorating it with papel picado, candles, crafts, flowers, photographs of the departed, candy skulls inscribed with the name of the departed, and a selection of his or her favorite foods (including the traditional Pan de muerto Bread of the Dead) and beverages.
The act of preparing an Altar de muertos provides a special time to remember, and to transform grief into acceptance. The living invites the spirits of the family to return home for a few hours of laughter, tears and memories. Mexicans at the cemetery, eat, drink, sing and pray while they keep a vigil during the night. All night, there is a grand gathering of huge extended families, alive and dead, as one by one, through stories, memories and dreams. . .the dead return!
On this night, those who wait realize the importance of: an honorable life... to be well remembered; hard working… to be well respected and loving… to be missed.
This is a festive time!
Here at Cedar Crest:
In preparation for the celebration of Día de muertos, the students, and all Cedar Crest community members are invited to participate in a Craft day where we will decorate the authentic Mexican calaveritas de azúcar (sugar skulls), make paper flowers and papel picado. This is scheduled for Monday, November 1st at the Multicultural Center from 5-7 pm. Mexican foods will be provided…while supplies last. (Please feel free to bring photographs, mementos and floral offerings to remember a lost one!)
The Altar de Muertos will be on display all day Tuesday, November 2nd. in the Dining Hall. The Altar will include all items that were previously prepared. This year, we will enjoy live music and dance from Calpulli Mexican Group Dance. The performance is scheduled to begin in the Dining Hall at 12:00.
Also, Dining Services will feature a Mexican lunch with enchiladas de mole, tacos, flautas, salsas, guacamole, sopa de tortilla and for dessert empanadas de manzana. (There will be a vegetarian option)
This event is sponsored by the Spanish Program, the Spanish Club, the Cultural Programs Committee and the Multicultural Center.
Why is it important to participate?
Participation and knowledge of other countries holidays and celebrations increases cultural awareness. In becoming culturally aware, students can realize that we are not all the same. Similarities and differences are important for the exchange of ideas. The foundation for improving communication is the understanding of the cultural values, beliefs and perceptions of others. Imagine how this concept could change our world!