The Mexican tradition of celebrating the lives of loved ones who have died comes to Cal Poly Pomona this week.
The César E. Chávez Center for Higher Education, in collaboration with the Ethnic & Women’s Studies Department, will host the 20th annual Día de los Muertos event Friday, Nov. 7.
The event will feature 25 multicultural altars, as well as a performance by Chicano Batman, a Los Angeles-based indie band that combines various Latin-style forms of music with soul and socially conscious lyrics.
Aztec dancers will kick off the festivities at 5 p.m. Ballet Folklorico, Japanese Taiko drummers, and spoken-word artists also will perform.
“It’s really about celebrating life and knowing death is not scary, but a part of living,” says Lorena Márquez, the Chávez Center coordinator. “Celebrating death is also celebrating life.”
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated across Latin America, but originated in Mexico. The holiday is a combination of Aztec ritual and Catholicism that Spanish conquistadors brought to the region, according to nationalgeographic.com.
On Día de los Muertos, the dead are honored with celebrations, festivals, and parties meant to be lively and upbeat. It is said that the day marks a time when the spirits of the dead come back to join in the festivities.
Márquez says families often will visit the graves of their loved ones to clean up, decorate the sites, and bring the deceased person’s favorite dishes.
One of the most noted symbols of the holiday are calaveras, or skulls, which are painted and shown as joyous.
Cal Poly Pomona’s event will include these skulls, as well as the marigolds and candles that are often seen as part of the holiday, Márquez says.
Free face painting will be offered from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at the Chavez Center and from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Bronco Commons.
The altars on display will be placed to remember loved ones, but also to highlight social issues of concern to the students who construct them, Márquez says.
All of these aspects are an important part of keeping cultural traditions alive, she adds.
“Traditions can sometimes get lost,” she says. “So for some, the first time they might be introduced to Día de los Muertos is through Cal Poly Pomona’s remembrance of it.”
The event has grown and evolved over the years.
At one time, the campus had six or seven altars and held the event at University Park. Now, there are 20 to 30 altars, up to 1,000 people attend, and the celebration is now in the Bronco Commons, Márquez says.
“Twenty years before us, students put in the time and the energy, and now they are coming back to the event,” she says. “They are bringing their families. The students of the past and present are really what make this event what it is.”
Visit http://www.cpp.edu/~oslcc/cecche/dia-de-los-muertos.shtml for more information about the event. The event also can be found on Facebook or on Twitter.