Decorations celebrating life and death, surrounded by pictures of loved ones, were on display during the Día De Los Muertos event held annually on campus in the Smith Memorial Student Union. Alex Wittwer/PSU Vanguard

PSU celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Portland State’s La Casa Latina Student Center organized a celebration on Nov. 1 to honor those who have passed for Día de los Muertos.

Día De Los Muertos, also known as “The Day of the Dead,” commemorates loved ones who have passed and brings the Latinx community together in celebration. According to National Geographic, although the holiday is celebrated throughout Latin America, Día de los Muertos is often associated with Mexico, where the tradition originated. 

Those who celebrate Día de los Muertos believe the dead would be insulted by mourning and would rather celebrate their life with parties, drinks, food and other things the dead enjoyed when they were alive. According to National Geographic, Día de los Muertos recognizes death as a part of human life and is not something that should be feared.

The PSU event had traditional food, traditional ofrendas, or altars, for loved ones and students who have passed. The Mariachi band from Woodburn High School also performed at the event. 

“Holding an event like this is important because it allows us to celebrate our culture in a way that acknowledges us and informs and educates others about it.” said Anayeli diaz-Espinosa, a student programmer at La Casa Latina.

The traditional ofrendas were placed with names and photos of people who have passed away. Traditionally, the altars are decorated with candles, calaveras, offerings of food and Mexican Marigolds. It is believed in Mexican culture that the Marigolds on the ofrenda is what guide the spirits home.

“It was a lot of altar building, a lot of honoring people who have died, our ancestors and other famous Mexican icons like Selena who passed away,” diaz-Espinosa said. 

Handmade papel picados, or pierced papers, were hung along the walls and across the ceiling at the PSU event. People also had the opportunity to get their faces painted as calaveras, or skulls. 

“[The Latinx population is] a growing population at PSU, so to have these events is very important because we have a very rich Latinx culture here,” said Emanuel Martinez, programming assistant for La Casa and emcee at the Día de Los Muertos event. “However, a lot of the time we don’t get to see that, so for us to put on this event, we like to think that it allows a place for the Latinx community to come and gather and just be a part of a safe space.” 

The event was filled with activities, food and entertainment, but the celebration did not stop there. La Casa Latina asked the crowd to write down the names of loved ones that the crowd would like to honor. “We invite you to honor your loved ones with us,” said Emanuel Martinez. The altar assembled by the members of La Casa Latina Student Center will be placed on display at Hoffman Hall.