‘Day of the Dead' celebrates ancestors through offerings and dance
Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos as it is called in Spanish, was celebrated at Baruch College on Oct. 29 in the Multipurpose Room, with an event displaying many of the customary aspects of the holiday. Day of the Dead is a traditional Latin American holiday that coincides with both Halloween and All Saints Day.
The event, hosted by the Ecuadorian Club, MexiCulture and the Latin American Student Organization, centered around teaching the audience the importance of the holiday in Latin America, especially in Mexican and Ecuadorian cultures. The holiday is celebrated with slight variation in each culture, but many aspects of it stay the same throughout.
Day of the Dead, which some began celebrating as early as Oct. 28, is meant not only to mourn family members and friends who passed but, more importantly, to commemorate the lives they led. Many do not consider the holiday to be a sad one, but instead view it as a time to remember those who have come before them.
The room centered around an ofrenda, an altar of offering, which is a staple in Day of the Dead celebrations.
According to the presentation that club members of MexiCulture and the Ecuadorian Club gave, the ofrenda is intended to be assembled with the late loved one's favorite foods and drinks, as well as small objects that were important to them while they were alive.
The ofrenda's purpose is to both honor the dead as well as to supply them with items needed in the afterlife, hence offering food and articles of clothing. Velas, or candles, are placed on the altar for each person who is mourned.
At the event, there were two traditional folkloric dances — the first of which was set to the song "El Jarabe Ranchero" — that are often performed at Day of the Dead celebrations in Latin America.
Games were also played, such as "Mummy," in which one person has to wrap their partner entirely in toilet paper to make them into a mummy before the other pairs could do a better job at it.
Additionally, there was a photo booth and face painting station, and students who attended the event were served a dinner of Latin American foods such as pernil, which is marinated pork, rice and beans.
"We [MexiCulture] decided to be part of the event just because, I feel like, it’s one of the biggest events that Mexico has," event coordinator of MexiCulture Mariana Dominguez said.
She added, "And as Mexicans we all felt that it was important to just collaborate with whatever our traditions are, starting by the ofrenda, and some of the activities that are going to take place, so we just want to show Baruch a little bit of what Mexico is all about."
Organizers of the event said that it is only natural that the three clubs come together and co-host the event because of the very similar nature of their clubs' missions.
The three organizations are dedicated to fostering Latin American cultures on campus, making the Day of the Dead event a logical meeting point for the clubs to collaborate.
"The event has been going on for a couple of years now, and we've always worked together towards doing the event," Domenica Cotrina, president of Ecuadorian Club, said.
"At first it actually started in just a regular classroom and we've been building on it and building on it, so now it's one of our large-scale events for the semester. The Ecuadorian Club and LASO share a club room so we have a really good relationship, and I think that helps when it comes to planning out the event, because it's easy to organize. It's also fun for us; it's a good way to spend time together."
According to students involved in the three clubs and this year’s Day of the Dead celebration, there is much more to take away from the event than just an accurate understanding of an important facet of Mexican and Ecuadorian cultures.
"The significance of this event is more than just the event," stated former LASO Executive President Omar Baltazar.
"It's a bond created between three clubs on campus that want to represent a unified Hispanic and Latin American student body."