The festivities of Halloween were followed by quiet solitude and prayer Sunday as five members of the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan paused to remember their loved ones.
Since its inception 30 years ago, MEChA has endeavored to provide students of Mexican heritage with a locale and community with whom to pay homage to the deceased on the 3,000-year-old Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The celebration occurs each year on Nov. 2.
MEChA Social Action Committee co-chairwoman Rebeca Gonzalez ’05 said the day is marked in Mexico by processions, ornate costumes, fine foods and visits to local cemeteries.
“People go to cemeteries and set up candles and put goodies by their loved ones’ tombstones,” Gonzalez said. “They also put out pictures of their loved ones and artifacts [by which] to remember them.”
Though the group once held Dia de los Muertos celebrations on Cross Campus each year, Gonzalez said perennial inclement weather forced the organization to move the event indoors to La Casa Cultural.
MEChA Social Action Committee co-chairwoman Sara Cardoza ’05 said the decorations at La Casa — which include an altar sheathed in a blanket woven in Mexico, candles, colorful scarves, fruit and pastries — will remain there for the duration of the week.
“In Mexico, the actual celebration is a one-day event, but decorations are left in the graveyards for the entire year,” Cardoza said. “We’ll just leave them up for a week so more people have the chance to come.”
Ricardo Sandoval ’06 said expanding the celebration of the Mexican holiday to encompass more than one day is important.
“In previous years, a lot of people have come through [La Casa] throughout the week,” Sandoval said. “Typically a few hundred will come by. When they come, they ask about the celebration and think about it, even if they’re not Mexicano. Some of them even say a prayer. I think it brings a smile to their faces.”
This year, students who visit La Casa during the week will see some new decorations. Ana De Santiago ’04 used memories of Dia de los Muertos celebrations at her former school to bring something new to MEChA’s traditional ceremony.
“We used to put the names of loved ones on photocopied hands that we’d cut out to commemorate people who had died,” she said. “I thought it would be a good idea to do this for our Dia de los Muertos celebration.”
Santiago emphasized her belief that the holiday should represent a broad sense of remembrance. During the event, she glued a photograph depicting strife in Iraq and Palestine onto a hand-shaped cutout.
“It’s good to remember other conflicts that have caused people to die,” she said.
Cardoza said she hopes more people, including those who aren’t Mexican, will learn about Dia de los Muertos and partake in MEChA’s annual festivities.
“This [holiday] can be beneficial for anyone who wants a day of reflection to remember their loved ones,” Cardoza said. “It’s a way of celebrating death instead of mourning it.”