Día de los Muertos at Drew

by Alyssa Sileo

4 mins read

On Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, ARIEL and La Casa Latina hosted two Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. These events were co-collaborated by multiple other organizations including Educational Opportunity Scholars (EOS), the Spanish Department and Feminist Intersection, and was co-sponsored by BIPOC Mentoring and South Asian Student Association (SASA). 

Día de los Muertos honors the lives of loved ones who have passed away and is considered the period of the year in which these souls return to earth to visit their families. Celebrated in Mexico and several other Latin American countries, the holiday is also observed by members of the worldwide diaspora of these nations. 

On Nov. 1, students, faculty and friends of Drew were invited to the Spanish Department Open House and were provided hot chocolate and pan de muerto, a sweet bread eaten during the holiday. Attendees created papel picado (cut-out pieces of brightly colored paper) and painted calaveras (skulls) to add to the ofrenda (the altar). Folks also added photos and items of loved ones who have passed on to the ofrenda, which was decorated with candles and flowers. 

Members of ARIEL, La Casa Latina and other friends prepared the carpeta de aserrin- sawdust carpet- which is where the departed souls can land on their journey to the altar.

On Nov. 2, guests were welcomed to a celebration dinner with empanadas, pupusas and much more as a mariachi band played in the background. Attendees danced and observed the ofrenda.

Photos courtesy of Elizabeth Blank.

Makayla Rico (‘22), an organizer of the event, said that a lot went into preparing for Día de los Muertos, including meetings with ARIEL, Assistant Professor of Spanish Raúl Rosales Herrera (‘99) and Feminist Intersection to delineate duties, such as purchasing materials,  dyeing sawadust for the carpeta de aserrin and “foraging” for supplies from past Día de los Muertos that were inside the house.

Fernando Cardoza Ochoa (‘22), president of ARIEL, said he valued the holiday. 

Cardoza Ochoa said, it gives people the chance to “appreciate and cherish memories with those who celebrate [this] holiday. It is specifically beneficial because it creates an atmosphere where people feel welcomed and invited to learn and advocate for a cultural aspect that is important to others without having to practice the given holiday.” 

“This creates an equal balance between the initiative to be at events of one’s culture and others as well,” Cardoza Ochoa said. 

Marwa Elessawy (‘22), attended both events and said, “ [the holiday] turns death on its head in a beautiful way—in contrast to grieving, it creates a space where we can celebrate with our loved ones who have passed and celebrate who they were. It allows for the harmony of grief and celebration.”

A Día de los Muertos event has been observed on campus for a number of years, and the celebration was expanded by La Casa Latina’s first House Assistant and Drew 2020 graduate Kassel Franco-Garibay to include the ofrenda.

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