ARTS NEWS: Campus ‘ofrenda’ honors the dead

by Steven Misho, Staff Writer

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Latinos United for Education (LUFE) has built an altar commemorating the Day of the Dead in front of the Cafeteria Foyer, which will honor the deceased through Nov. 10.

The altar is heavily decorated with papier-mache, figurines, symbolic imagery and sugar-sculpted skulls adding to the design. Offerings (or “ofrendas”) such as food and trinkets are placed on the altar, many carrying significance for the deceased, usually favorite foods or personal effects, or “what they want in life,” explains LUFE Treasurer Andrea Garcia. Electronic candles placed on the altar are meant to guide the spirits of the dead to these offerings.

Encyclopedia Britannica describes the Day of the Dead as “making peace with the eventuality of death by treating it with familiarity.” Akin to welcoming an old friend, death is honored through party and merriment, with festivities and parties held in a day of celebration. This is because celebrators believe that during this time, the spirits of the deceased return to visit them.

The way Day of the Dead is celebrated differs depending on the area. Garcia described a variation in Mexico’s state of Michoacán: “(They would put) candles, flowers in a boat and send it off,” whereas others may simply place an ofrenda at the grave of the deceased or within their own home.

According to LUFE President Cynthia Sanchez, the Day of the Dead is derived from ancient Aztec traditions involving sacrifice to the goddess of death Mictlantecuhtli. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs in the 1500s in an attempt to convert them to Catholicism, the date was changed to coincide with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Sanchez explains that the ofrenda “represent(s) some parts of our culture,” and she hopes the display educates students about the nature of the holiday.

Until Nov. 1st, the altar will be dedicated to significant writers within the Latino cultural community, whereas the 2nd will be reserved for “angelitos” (deceased children), followed by suicide victims on the 3rd and general observation thereafter until the 10th. LUFE emphasizes that anyone is free to contribute to the altar at any time after the 3rd and can honor whomever they wish.

LUFE meets in Room 1637 of the Student Activities Center on Mondays at 2 p.m.

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