San Diego State community members gathered around the altars and taco stand on Nov. 2 at the Scripps Cottage for a Dia de los Muertos celebration, hosted by the Latinx Chicanx Hispanic Employee Resource Group (LCH FSA ERG), the Office for Graduate Life and Diversity, and the Latinx Resource Center (LRC).
Dia de Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday to honor the lives of those who have passed away. This celebration dates back to almost 3,000 years ago when the indigenous people of Mexico believed that the gates of heaven opened so families could be reunited with the spirits of their ancestors. These gates would open on Nov. 1 for the children and Nov. 2 for the adults.
To honor the visitations of these spirits, families will put up altars for their deceased loved ones. Alters may include photos and candles, as well as offerings like the blooming cempasuchil and delicious traditional foods like pan de muerto.
But for many people in the SDSU community, Dia de los Muertos is more than just good food and alters. This event invited conversations about death and its celebration.
Dr. Rosalia Arellano from SDSU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program describes it as a day of celebrating present life as well.
“Dia de los Muertos reminds me to enjoy the little things in your day-to-day. The smells, the feels, everything that is tangible that our souls cannot participate in, reminds us to enjoy it now because it will be gone from our physical bodies,” Arellano said.
After a year of isolation and uncertainty from the pandemic, this like many other cultural events reunited the Latino community at SDSU in order to show that they are being seen at the diverse university.
Marisa Reynosa, the founder of the Latinx Employment Resource Group and assistant director of the Center of Graduate Life and Diversity, was a big player in bringing back the 2nd annual Dia de los Muertos event.
“We are a culturally diverse school here. We are so close to the border. We have so many Latinos on campus. It is incredibly important for them to express themselves on campus in an SDSU community and also celebrate these traditions with the community. I think it’s important because we need to also not just learn academically, but learn about the different cultures here as well,” said Reyosa.
Latina Marine biology student Tatiana Guillen, 19, came to the event to celebrate her roots. Originally from Texas and now at SDSU, Vuillen and her friends attended the Dia de los Muertos event to connect with traditions from back home.
“My family personally see death as sad, but also Dia de los Muertos makes it more of a celebration of the dead. You can celebrate the lives that your family has lived by eating their favorite foods and having pictures of them,” Guillen said.
Kicking off the first day of Dia de los Muertos, SDSU’s LCH FSA ERG and Grad Life and Diversity programs brought together the Latinx community of SDSU by exploring the different definitions of what this celebration means to each individual. All while enjoying delicious tacos, rice and beans thanks to Taquizas José.