The Housing and Residential Life Office at the University of La Verne brought back its annual Dia de los Muertos event for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
It took place from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday in the Citrus Residence Hall lounge and featured a variety of activities.
Participants were welcomed to the event with an ofrenda, or offering, setup decorated with papel picado – Mexican cut paper folk art – bright yellow marigold flowers, red and white candles, calavera skulls and framed pictures of deceased celebrities such as Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, Kobe Bryant, and Matthew Perry.
Traditional Dia de los Muertos dishes were served such as tamales and pan dulce. Tables were set up for participants to create their own calavera decorations. A memory wall also gave participants the opportunity to note any loved ones that were dear to them.
“The idea behind all of this was to bring awareness to Dia de los Muertos, especially as a Hispanic serving institution,” Residence Life Coordinator Esveiri Conchas said.
Conchas coordinated the event and said that she sees importance in sharing different cultures and ideas.
All students and staff of various cultural backgrounds were invited to participate. Informational posters were placed around the ofrendas and memory wall for interested participants to learn more about the Dia de los Muertos holiday and its history. Sophomore education major Michelle Leyva said that she wasn’t too familiar with making ofrendas and wanted to become more familiar with them.
“It’s cool to just learn something new and want to do it with your own family,” Leyva said.
Participants were given the opportunity to print their own pictures of those that they chose to honor for Dia de los Muertos and have it framed. Senior criminology major Jocelyn Castaneda said that she was honoring her pet for this year’s holiday by having their picture framed.
“It’s not just for people, you could really honor anyone that you really had a lot of love for,” Castaneda said.
Alaina Hardy is a resident assistant for the Citrus Residence Hall. She said that collectively, the RA’s love to support the events their supervisors plan. She attended this year’s Dia de los Muertos event and said that it was a good opportunity to be around others in similar situations who wanted to honor the lives of their loved ones.
To senior political science and philosophy major Jennifer Reyes, Dia de los Muertos is about celebrating that those who have passed are still with us, even if it’s not physically.
“It’s nice to see that the passing of people is celebrated and not something to always be sad about,” Reyes said.
Many participants took part in the memory wall and picture framing of their loved ones. After learning about the ofrenda, sophomore computer science major Alana Traylor said that it now gives her a chance to say hello and goodbye to her loved ones in a new way.
“We can honor those who we lost along the way and welcome their spirits home,” Traylor said.
Many participants left the event feeling thankful for the opportunity to honor Dia de los Muertos with their friends. Conchas said that she was an RA during her time as an undergraduate student at the University of La Verne. She liked being able to bring the community of La Verne together during her events as an RA.
“Now, I like building a sense of community and diversity as a professional,” Conchas said.
Taylor Fukunaga can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.