Students celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Will Barksdale | Multimedia Jounalist

By Sarah Barrientos | Reporter

Although Halloween will end on Tuesday, don’t be surprised if you continue to see your Latino friends dressed up with skeletal face paint on the first and second of November. This isn’t a strange case of post-Halloween blues, but rather a celebration of an entirely different holiday: Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, originated in Mexico. However, celebrations of the holiday can also be found all over, especially in places like Texas and California, where large amounts of Mexican immigrants and people of Mexican descent currently live.

According to Dr. Joan Supplee, a Baylor professor with a doctorate in Latin American studies, the holiday borrows elements of All Souls Day and All Saints’ Day from the Catholic Church as well as ancient Aztec practices to celebrate the dead.

“Families will go and have huge picnics in graveyards,” Supplee said.

Supplee said that it was custom to bring along items that remind the family of deceased members or items that the family member would have enjoyed.

Piedras Negras, Couhuila, Mexico senior Arianna Gomez said that a typical Day of the Dead celebration for her family includes honoring family members who have passed away.

“We spend the morning putting together flower wreaths for family members who have passed away and then head to three cemeteries throughout the day to put them in and pray over the grave,” Gomez said. “We clean the graves, and repaint them every three years or so. We usually stop to have picnics at the cemetery. One of my favorite parts was eating the sugar cane bits that they sell in the stalls at the entrance of the cemeteries.”

Mexico City sophomore Daniel Avila said that remembering Dia de los Muertos is important for staying connected to his roots.

“This holiday represents, to me, a sign of respect to our roots and to our deceased family and friends. By remembering them, we make sure to honor them.” Avila said.

Gomez said that one commonly held misconception concerning Day of the Dead is that it involves ancestral worship of the dead. Gomez said she thinks this notion comes from many Mexicans that build altars for their loved ones in celebration.

“[The altars] are more like monuments of remembrance, and most of the items placed upon it have taken symbolic meaning,” Gomez said. “We place their favorite foods in the altar not necessarily because we believe that they will consume it, but because it’s a way to personalize see altars and remember what the deceased enjoyed in life.”

Although it might be easy to write off Dia de los Muertos as “Mexican Halloween,” the holiday encompasses so much more than just painted sugar skulls. For many, it is the way to understand the process of life and death, and to celebrate those who had come before.