LA loves its Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations, but this year, Covid-19 and social distancing nearly killed it. Well, not really. People still celebrated. USC grad student Frank Rojas says this year it was just a lot more personal.
Frank Rojas is a Latinx masters student at USC. As a kid, he celebrated Dia de los Muertos, a bit. He had an altar for lost relatives, but not much more than that. Then when he got to college, and identifying as Latinx, he went all out for this festival. Last year he co-hosted a big celebration with outdoor music and dancers with processions past multiple altars dedicated to people who’ve passed away.
But this year, due to Covid, we’re all thinking about death in ways we never did. Dia de los Muertos took on even deeper meanings for Frank Rojas.
“So the fact that this celebration, you know, is about death and the fact that we’re the most affected by it is very a lot more real this year.”
He says it brought people together.
“So I would definitely agree with, you know, there was so much camaraderie in terms of, you know, just checking in with folks.”
Family. Friends. Acquaintances. The community wanted to check in to see how they were all doing in these difficult times. Rojas' Day of the Dead may have been over Zoom. But he says somehow it felt more real.
“I know the fact they were united a lot in just this pandemic where the most affected by that were the most vulnerable.”
Covid-19 has disproportionately affected the Latinx community. Rojas does not want to lose the fun of this day.
“I would say a celebration really is also being jeopardized, you know, as it’s moving to online platforms.”
And not everyone in his circles even has online access to be able to join in.
“You also have to be mindful of the digital divide that is in our Latinx communities. Right. So who has access to these platforms? You know, are they free? Who has Internet connection right now?”
He wants to be inclusive and that reaches even beyond the Latinx community.
“I just want to just share that, you know, this isn’t exclusive to the Latin community, you know, as much as it’s rooted in that, you know, this celebration of our ancestors is across generations, across cultures and platforms.”
In the spirit of the ceremony, we can say that plagues, like people, come and go. This too shall pass and future generations will remember us and how we fought Covid during their Dia de los Muertos celebrations.