Student organizations celebrate Día De Los Muertos with altars
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
When the clock strikes midnight on Oct. 31, Halloween will fade into the night and the dead will emerge from the dark to be celebrated on Day of the Dead, or Día De Los Muertos, a traditional Mexican holiday that has crossed borders and has become common at the university.
On Día De los Muertos, death—or at least the remembrance of the dead—is celebrated and one of the most important traditions for this event is the making of elaborate altars that welcome the perished spirits home.
“Día de los Muertos is very significant because it celebrates lives,” said Laura Hollingsed, chair of the library’s Exhibits Committee. “It is celebrated in our area because it has a cultural connection to our Mexican past.”
On Nov. 1-2 students walking around campus will have the opportunity to view several altars created by student organizations.
The Queer Student Alliance, QSA, will have an altar on Nov. 2 at Leech Grove in remembrance of those deceased from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.
“We want to recognize the individuals from the LGBT community here in El Paso who have passed away and who don’t get a lot of recognition through the media,” said Devonte Smith, freshman pre-engineering major and president of the Queer Student Alliance. “El Paso has a big LGBT community and we are building this remembrance for people who are unaware of what is going on here in El Paso.”
According to Smith, the altar will be dedicated to Brandon Elizares, a 16-year-old boy from El Paso who took his life earlier this year after being bullied and threatened in high school because of his sexual orientation.
Brittney Alonzo, senior graphic design major and vice president of QSA, said they are attempting to make people conscious that bullying can be detrimental and can even lead to suicide.
“We want to help people understand that what one person might say to someone else because of their differences can be detrimental to the individual,” Alonzo said. “People should be remembered for who they are, not for whom they liked.”
The altar will be composed of three tables—the center table will remember Elizares and others from the LGBT community, the other two tables will pay tribute to significant figures from the past and to those who recently passed away this year.
“We want to really make the altar traditional, we are going to personalize them as accurate as we can,” Alonzo said.
Rebecka Ortega, a junior microbiology pre-med student, is in full support of the altar QSA will have for Elizares.
“We as human beings should not judge each other,” Ortega said. “Everyone has the right to be who they are, we are all different.”
Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, MEChA, is the other student organization that is going to have an altar in remembrance of the dead—it will be on display Nov. 1 at Leech Grove.
“If we celebrate the life of those who came before us, we can only make ourselves stronger,” said Arturo Chavez, junior health science major and treasurer of MEChA. “We face the realities of death and it is a reminder that we have to make the most of our lives.”
According to Chavez, the altar is going to be dedicated to the life of Ramon Arroyo, a local Chicano activist who contributed to the presence of Mexican-Americans in the media and passed away in April of this year, at the age of 62.
“He did a lot for the community during the Chicano movement up until his illness. He was a good man,” Chavez said.
MEChA members will be reaching out to the Arroyo family to acquire items that will personalize the altar. The organization will also be selling calacas, or sugar skulls, at Leech Grove leading up to the Day of the Dead.
Jessica Macias, junior microbiology pre-med student, feels that the celebration of a Chicano activist embraces our culture.
“It emphasizes our culture, we have to keep in mind our roots, our culture and the struggle it has endured to have us where we are today,” Macias said.
During the week of Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. the library will have on display in the third floor their annual altar which celebrates the life of a literary figure.
“This year we will dedicate the altar to Carlos Fuentes who was a Mexican writer and part of the Latin American literary boom,” said Claudia Rivers, the head of Special Collections at the library.
Rivers said that Fuentes was an important influence on “El Boom,” which was the explosion of Latin American literature during the 1960s and ‘70s.