The annual tradition started in Mexico to honor the dead comes to life at 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 campus’s 21st annual Día de los Muertos event Friday, Nov. 6.
The event will feature multicultural altars, as well as a performance by the Inland Empire-based band Quitapenas, which plays tropical Afro-Latin music. Festivities, which will kick off at 5 p.m., also will feature a local child mariachi group and Japanese Taiko drummers.
“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.
Chicano/Latino student clubs and campus organizations will be selling food. Fundraised money will go to the annual DREAM Scholarship, which is available to undocumented students.
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.
Participants are encouraged to bring photos of their loved ones or items to remember them by to display on this year’s community altar.
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.
“The students of the past and present are really what make this event what it is,” she says.