Day of the Dead

CWU celebrates the Latin holiday to honor the spirits of loved ones

Jacob Quinn, Scene Writer

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On Nov. 4, CWU will celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a traditional Hispanic holiday that honors loved ones who have passed away.

According to Wikipedia, Dia de los Muertos is practiced throughout Mexico, especially in the central and southern regions. Wikipedia also explained that scholars trace the holiday back hundreds of years to the ancient Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Michtecacihuati (Lady of the Dead) and the holiday has since spread to the United States and various other locations where those with Mexican ancestry reside.

“Day of the Dead is a two-day event,” said Veronica Gomez-Vilchis, a diversity officer for the Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ). “November 1 is when we honor all the children who have passed away. November 2 is when we honor the adults who have passed away.”

Though Día de los Muertos is occasionally mistaken for Mexican Halloween or a black magic ritual, Joan CawleyCrane, a senior lecturer in the department of art, was quick to dispute those beliefs.

“People hear ‘Day of the Dead’ and they think it’s some sort of voodoo ritual, death worship thing and that’s really not the whole intent of it at all.”

At CWU, Day of the Dead will be celebrated on Nov. 4th from 6-9 p.m., beginning with a procession in Dean Hall led by a group of Aztec dancers from Guadalajara.

“Normally, the Aztec dancers are the ones who lead the procession,” Gomez-Vilchis said. “And that’s what’s going to happen here. They’re going to educate the students about why certain steps happen, why this music and why this dance.”

The procession will continue to Randall Hall and the SURC East Patio, where the Aztec dancers, with the permission of the four winds (different gods in the Aztec spiritual belief system), will begin the opening ceremony by spreading incense with a thurible. At the ceremony’s conclusion, the Aztec dancers will lead everyone into the ballroom and perform a couple more dances.

“They’ll do the dance of the dead,” Gomez-Vilchis said.

According to Gomez-Vilchis, in addition to the dances there will also be music from the CWU Mariachi Del Centro, a DJ and a live Mexican band. Guests will also be able to enjoy a photo booth, Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread) and face painting.

There will also be a chance for participants to make paper flowers, sugar skulls and sample other Mexican treats including tamales and hot chocolate.

“It’s affordable for the students—under five bucks. They can grab two tamales and a drink and they’ll be good to go,” Gomez-Vilchis said.

Several CWU and independent organizations came together to make this event possible: CDSJ, Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE), Movimento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA) and Casa Latina.

“One of the reasons I’m so excited about the Day of the Dead is [because] it’s exposing a much wider audience to a very family-oriented celebration of life. There’s music and food and dancing and this opportunity to get together if you can, to celebrate with your family and other families. And it seems like a much more positive way to deal with the concept of loss: rather than dwelling on the loss, you think more about what you’ve gained,” CawleyCrane said.

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Day of the Dead