Dia de los Muertos Is for the Living

By Joseph Baroud
Staff Writer

Get ready to honor the dead while celebrating the present, as California State University, Dominguez Hills holds its Día de los Muertos all-day festival Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Sculpture Garden.

“My definition of this event is commemorating past loved ones,” said Efren Melena, a graduate assistant in the multicultural affairs office, who helped organize the event. “Just remembering and celebrating with them [and] all the things that they did while they were alive.”

The event will kick off at 10 a.m. with Dr. Miguel Dominguez, a professor in the modern language department, discussing the Day of the Dead and what it means to the Hispanic culture. The event will have numerous activities for students, their families, and guests to enjoy.

There will be a paper mache workshop hosted by Dr. Corina Benavides Lopez, a professor of Chicano and Chicana studies at CSUDH. Benavides will demonstrate how to create paper mache and participants can then decorate them.

“If you have kids, have a family, you’re welcome to bring them,” Melena said, adding that there will be music, food, entertainment, face painting and other arts and crafts.

By noon the event will really kick off with a formal introduction. Following that, there will be more arts and crafts, including sculpting and pen making.

There will be food trucks with Mexican dishes, as well as two bands. A student dance team will also perform a number and, to expand on the event’s cultural tradition, Aztec performers (Dance Azteca) will provide a blessing ceremony.

Students can also volunteer to participate in the event, including creating the ceremonial altar, which is the main symbolic form of expressing remembrance on this day.

Altars are built in commemoration of a deceased relative or close friend. They are decorated in a style which would capture the essence of the deceased person. Also, things that the deceased enjoyed, or were important to them, are placed on the altar as well, and given as an offering.

“Our goal is to hit student involvement and have students here on campus get involved,” Melena said. “Whether it’s through attending, cleaning an altar, volunteering, or things of that nature.”

Even if you aren’t Hispanic, Melena said all CSUDH students are welcome.

“The essence of this event is just remembering and honoring,” he said. “The Mexican culture is super diverse, even within Mexico. [but] it’s very different [in the U.S.] Some Mexican-Americans aren’t even aware of Día de Los Muertos. They know of it, but they don’t necessarily partake in it. It’s an important part of specific communities within the Mexican culture.”

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