Books about the history of El Día de Los Muertos along with traditional food and drinks awaited the USC community at the Leavey Library Reflection Pool Wednesday as several gathered to celebrate the Day of the Dead, a colorful tradition that honors and remembers the dead and expresses the unique relationship that Mexicans and other members of the Latinx community have with death and their ancestors.
“El Día de los Muertos has roots in both the European and Indigenous cultures of the Americas,” said Consuelo Siguenza-Ortiz, a Spanish and Language literature professor at USC.
While the celebration is especially important for the Mexican community, it has a lot of significance for many others in Latin America and around the world, Siguenza-Ortiz said.
“The Day of the Death is celebrated in different ways in different countries depending on what indigenous group was there and also what has been carried over from Catholicism,” she said. “It’s important to emphasize the diversity of Latin America and its cultures because indigenous groups were very diverse. They had their own languages and their own religion.”
Students at the event had the opportunity to learn about how Day of the Dead is celebrated around the world while listening to Latinx music and eating the traditional pan de muerto and champurrado from Mexico.
Students also got to practice their artistic skills by making objects used on the altars.
“We teach students how to make marigold flowers, orange flowers that represent life and are placed on ofrendas and altares as a sign of respect on El Día de los Muertos,” said Nicole Austria, a student and volunteer at the event. “We have had a lot of participation, not only from Latinx students but also from the USC community in general. Many students want to learn about the importance of the flowers and their cultural significance.”
Some students at the Día de los Muertos celebration said the event was very educational.
“I’m learning a lot especially when talking to people who are here and who are actually part of the culture,” said Leona Harper, a Spanish major. “I had heard about the Día de los Muertos tradition, but today I had the opportunity to learn much more about it.”
Students at the event also had the chance to make barriletes gigantes, a Guatemalan tradition that few people know about.
“Barriletes gigantes is a Guatemalan tradition that comes from indigenous practices where people make enormous kites and fly them up in a festival. Kites are seen as a way to get closer to our ancestors. We are supposed to get closer to the other world,” said Ana Chavez, a Guatemalan student at USC. “People commonly write a message on the kites or put an image of the Virgin Mary on them and fly them.”
Krystal Gallegos, a Mexican-American student at USC said she didn’t plan to come to the event but as soon as she saw it was about the Day of the Dead she decided to stop by and grab some traditional champurrado.
“It is nice to take a break and appreciate the culture. There is a big Hispanic population at USC and celebrations like this that focus on our family, traditions and values are very important for our community,” Gallegos said. “It’s nice to see everyone else learning along the way and asking about the festivity and the food.”
If students couldn’t make it to today’s celebration, they can still participate in the festivities. There will be another El Día de los Muertos event on Thursday at the Leavey Library Reflection Pool from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.