Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a two-day long festival celebrated in Mexico, Peru and in cities in the United States. Día de los Muertos is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2.
Unlike Halloween, the holiday celebrates the dead but not in a scary way. With Día de los Muertos skeletons and skulls are symbols of death but are meant to make people laugh.
Instead, the holiday celebrates another step in life. In Hispanic culture, they believe that beyond death, there is life. Which makes Día de los Muertos a very spiritual holiday.
During Día de los Muertos, people welcome home family members who have passed. Altars, also called ofrendas in Spanish, are prepared for the family member at their home. Altars are decorated with special flowers called campazuchil. A photo of each dead person is placed on the altar, along with their favorite food. If the family is celebrating a child who died, the child’s favorite toys will be placed on the altar, and the parents of the child sometimes shoot off fire crackers to help the child find his or her way home.
Families also go to the cemetery to visit their family member’s grave. They often bring flowers and candles to the cemetery. They will celebrate at the grave site by singing and praying.
Teresa Sanchez, from Tampico, Mexico, is a student here at Arkansas Tech University. Sanchez recalled some of her memories celebrating Día de Muertos. When Sanchez was younger, two of her grandparents passed away. She would put up an altar and put their favorite foods and objects and candles and flowers on it. “It not a sad time. It is a time where they come down and visit you. We all celebrated them and remember them,” Sanchez said.
Megan Bell, from La Paz, Mexico, who is on the Arkansas Tech tennis team, feels that Día de los Muertos gives the family another day to spend with that person. “We make it a happy day because we get another day with that person,” Bell said. “It’s something I have done since I was little. It is a part of who I am; it something to look forward to.”
It is important to inform our community about holidays like Dia de los Muertos. If people in our community want to understand other people, they have to understand their culture, what they believe and what they think.
Patricia Joselin is the coordinator of the world languages lab here at Arkansas Tech. Joselin believes learning cultures is linked to learning a language. “Learning about someone’s culture helps you interact better with them,” Joselin said. “It is very beneficial to campus to learn about different cultures because we have people from all over the world.”