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Day of the Dead altar.

El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated widely in Mexico, where people place candles and flowers on altars, along with ofrendas (offerings), such as tobacco and beans, to commemorate the dead.

Celebrating El Dia de los Muertos

Published on November 1, 2005

Beneath red, gold, and orange autumn leaves, the procession threaded through the east bank of the campus, from Dinkytown to Coffman Union.

Three University organizations that serve the Latino community--the Department of Chicano Studies, La Raza Student Cultural Center, and the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence--celebrated El D?a de los Muertos on Tuesday along with students and others who joined in.

The procession visited all three offices. At each stop, participants installed an altar in memory of the deceased and in recognition of political and social challenges and opportunities that impact the Latino community.

"We celebrate El D?a de los Muertos as a time-honored tradition in our community, but also utilize this occasion as a somber reminder that we face many legal, political, and social challenges to securing a better future," said Louis Mendoza, chair of the Department of Chicano Studies. "In this spirit, D?a de Los Muertos is a time to educate ourselves and others and renew our commitment to a meaningful life."

Each of the colorful altars in the procession was built around a particular theme: Violence on the Border, Impact of War on Latino Communities, and Challenges of Educational Access. Alongside these issues were commemorations of loved ones who have died. Many students and other members of the procession wore costumes and placed candles and flowers on the altars, along with ofrendas (offerings), such as tobacco and beans, to commemorate the dead. The public was invited to join in and light a candle or leave a memento to honor and evoke the presence of a loved one.

El Dia de los Muertos is celebrated widely in Mexico. Its origins can be traced to ancient Central American traditions, such as Aztec summer festivities to honor children and the dead.

The University established the Department of Chicano Studies in 1972, and La Raza Student Cultural Center is a longstanding student organization. Chicano and Chicana students at the University are served by the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence.