Día de los Muertos honors the dead

Maddie Wright

Calaveras for Dia de los Muertos – Hildago Market, Tijuana, Mexico | Wikipedia Commons

Día de los Muertos is not the Mexican version of Halloween. 

Día de los Muertos, which translates to Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday lasting from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. The purpose of the holiday is to remember and honor loved ones who have passed, but it is often misunderstood in popular American culture. 

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“We all just come together,” said Yailynn Almanza, a freshman studying business administration. “It’s not a mourning period at all. It’s more like a celebration.”

According to Daniela Castillo, a journalism and media communication professor at Colorado State University who wrote her masters statement about Día de los Muertos, the holiday is at risk because many culture celebrate holidays with some sort of connection to the dead during this time of year. 

“The one thing that might be able to kill Day of the Dead is Halloween,” Castillo said. “And by Halloween, I mean the cultural invasion from the United States.”

Castillo said Halloween may be to blame for the declining practice of Día de los Muertos. 

“Small towns still honor it, but a lot of families are not doing altars anymore,” Castillo said. 

Creating an altar is one of the most common ways to celebrate Día de los Muertos. 

“Every single thing in the altar has it’s own significance,” Castillo said. “So for example, the incense helps them guide the way. The marigold flowers have a very specific type of fragrance that helps attract these spirits. People also make trails of the marigold flowers to help them come to the altar.”

Almanza said the altar is the most important part of the holiday. 

“The most important part, it’s called the ‘ofrenda,’ but it’s like an altar that you make for your loved ones,” Almanza said. “Basically, the significance is that it’s the one day where your loved ones can come down and talk with you in a very nice way, not in like a supernatural way.”

Castillo said another important part of the altar is the tissue paper cutouts called papel picados. 

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“When it russells in the wind, it’s supposed to mean that the spirits are present and like you can hear it or whatever,” Castillo said. “It’s part of the folk art we have in Mexico and actually the Aztecs used to do something very similar decorate with, it wasn’t exactly with paper as we know it but they could do it with fabric and colorful fabrics.”

For those who do celebrate Día de los Muertos, El Centro, CSU’s hispanic cultural center, is hosting events on Nov. 1 and 2.

Claudia Perez, a sophomore majoring in communication studies who coordinated El Centro’s Día de los Muertos event this year, said it is a time to remember ancestors in a positive way. 

“We don’t really fear the dead,” Perez said. “It is a way to honor, and it’s looking at death in a positive light.”

El Centro’s Día de los Muertos events:

Day of the Dishes- Clark A Room 202 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Dia De Los Muertos- El Centro in the LSC from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
 
Collegian reporter Maddie Wright can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @maddierwright.