Campus Celebrations for El Dia de Los Muertos
G eorgia College & State University students, faculty and staff are celebrating El día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in several locations on campus this week.
Working with faculty in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, students in SPAN 1002 built an altar—called an ofrenda—in the front atrium of Arts & Sciences. Members of the GCSU Latino Student Association (LSA) built their ofrenda in The Hub last week, where it has since been on display.
According to The Mexican Museum, “Día de Los Muertos acknowledges the symbiotic relationship between life and death.”
Members of the LSA were encouraged to participate in the ofrenda tradition “to welcome our loved ones visiting from heaven and honor them.” Students remembered their loved ones by including pictures of relatives and friends, candles and images of ornate decorated skulls—called calaveras.
Traditional ofrendas are built in honor of deceased love ones to welcome them home from Nov. 1 through Nov. 2, when Día de Los Muertos is celebrated. The altars may vary from one culture to another, but most include marigolds, candles, photos of the deceased and cut tissue-paper designs, as well as food and beverage offerings for the dead.
Students in SPAN 1002 worked in groups to research the significance of the ofrendas and the meaning of its different elements. The SPAN 1002 sections who participated are taught by GCSU faculty members Diana Díaz Gómez, Lee Kirven and Aurora Castillo-Scott.
“They collaborated in class to choose a famous Spanish-speaking deceased person and worked on writing their biographies,” said Díaz Gómez, lecturer of Spanish. “To create the altar, each group contributed a poster on their chosen element of the ofrenda, a biography, a framed picture of the famous person they chose, and an object to display on the altar.”
Students also gave presentations, during which they lit ofrenda candles and shared information about the pre-Hispanic origins of this important holiday.
Mexican death rites date from pre-Hispanic rituals that are over 3,000 years old. They’ve been depicted in murals, painted pottery and other artifacts, showing how the Day of the Dead has its origins in the rituals practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
The ofrenda in Arts & Sciences will remain on display through Friday, Nov. 3. The LSA ofrenda will remain on display in The Hub through next week and members of the GCSU community are invited to continue to contribute remembrances of photos and offerings.