Everybody has lost a loved one, be it family, a friend, or even a pet. In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, they have a celebration for their dead: Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
The holiday was first celebrated by the indigenous tribes of Mexico and Latin America thousands of years ago. Celebrations varied from region to region, but the general idea was to put gifts and offerings out for your loved ones to help them meet Mictlantecuhtli, the dual male/female god of death, in the underworld. When the conquistadors entered the area, they merged the holiday with All Saints and All Souls days, placing the celebration on Nov. 1 and 2, dates of celebration that continue to this day.
Intricate altars celebrating deceased loved ones are placed in homes and around the community; pictures or mementos are placed on and around the altar. Delicious feasts are prepared for both the living and the dead, and offerings are placed at cemeteries for loved ones. Included in these traditional foods are sugar skulls; the skeleton is a very prominent figure in the celebration, and they are always decorated with bright colors and meticulous designs to give the perception of the dead enjoying death.
There are a few ways to celebrate this holiday in Portland and at Portland State. On campus, La Casa Latina will be hosting a Dia de Los Muertos celebration at 6 p.m on Nov. 2 at the Native American and Student Community Center. There will be food, an educational component, student presentations and an altar. Attendees are encouraged to come and bring any small remembrances or photos of loved ones who have passed on as a way to include the entire community in honoring loved ones.
Pedro Corres, the Event Coordinator at La Casa Latina at PSU, encourages everyone to stop by this event and see what it’s all about, regardless of race or identity. “I think that students feel like they have to belong to a certain identity to come into a center,” Corres said. “We’re always trying to dispel that myth because, you know, we’re student funded and we’re here for all students.”
Another event happening at PSU is the Spanish Club’s celebration, starting at 2 p.m. on Nov. 1 in SMSU 294. Over email, a Spanish Club representative said the celebration will include food, drink, games and educational activities so people can “really engage with learning about the holiday while practicing their Spanish conversation.”
Off campus, there will also be a Dia de Los Muertos celebration happening on Nov. 2 at Holocene, with performances by Orquestra Pacifico Tropical, Y La Bamba, Salvia, Bells Atlas, and Danza Azteca. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the performances start at 8 p.m. All ages are allowed until 9 p.m., after which it will be 21 and over. Children get in for free, and adult admission is $10.
Editor’s Note: The Oct. 24 print version of this piece listed a misattribution to Chris May. The correct author is Willis Homann, as shown above.