By Alex Graf
CSUDH held its annual celebration of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on Nov. 1, outside La Corte Hall. Scheduled events ranged from the Procession of Civil Rights to music and dance performances. Food trucks sold tacos and other traditional Mexican food while students painted sugar skulls and their faces, and paid respects to various altars.
“It’s a way to celebrate the Catholic holiday of All Saints and All Souls, but it has deep Mesoamerican indigenous traditions woven into the holiday, which makes it uniquely Mexican,” said CSUDH History Professor Doris Namala.
Namala uses the holiday with her Colonial Latin America and Colonial Mexican classes to study religion and syncretism.
“Syncretism means the blending of cultures and ultimately the creation of a newer uniquely Colonial Mexican culture around this particular holiday,” Namala said. “In this context syncretism means the blending primarily of Iberian Catholicism and Mesoamerican religious beliefs and practices.”
Namala said many of her students celebrate Dia De Los Muertos in their homes but also that many of the festivities at CSUDH were social justice oriented.
“There’s an LGBT altar, we’ve had Black Lives Matter altars,” Namala said. “You wouldn’t find a Black Lives altar in Mexico probably, but it makes sense to have one in LA. That’s unique to the CSUDH way of celebrating [Dia De Los Muertos]. I have a transgender son… I’m an immigrant myself and so many of my students are undocumented immigrants, so I think those are hugely important issues”
Assistant Dean of Multicultural Affairs Lisa Sueki said the celebration was a “whole campus community effort.”
“Students honored those who may have fallen for a social justice causes like Black Lives Matter or those who were killed over the weekend in Pittsburgh,” Sueki said.
Students celebrating had varying reasons for attending the event.
Liberal studies student Diana Cervantes painted sugar skulls and said for her, Dia De Los Muertos is a family tradition.
“You can paint [sugar skulls] in honor of the person you’re commemorating,” Cervantes said. “You can make it any way you want.”
Child development major Teresa Diaz was also among students painting skulls.
“You get to draw the beauty of death,” Diaz said. “When I say that it sounds bad, but in my culture, we celebrate the dead. I think it’s a very beautiful thing.”
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