By Alton Pitre and Edward Ruano, Staff Writers
Right after the witches, costumes and trick-or-treating of Halloween comes the Day of the Dead, or Dia De Los Muertos, a joyous celebration of the deceased unique to Mexico.
From Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, the event focuses on the celebration and continuity of life, the devotion to the family, and the honoring of your loved ones who have passed.
“This is not a day of mourning but a day to celebrate and honor the lives of people who were very important to us,” said the Associated Student Union’s Commissioner of Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Juan Nava. “To have other people become aware of our race and sometimes even ourselves is awesome. We used this event to show others that the Latino community is not just Mexican, [and] it’s always important to celebrate your roots whether you’re Latino or not.”
Valley’s Nov. 1 celebration of Day of the Dead concluded Valley’s Latino Heritage Week and took the form of numerous tables in the Student Services Center’s Multi-Purpose Room that displayed various colorful and artistic shrines created by students, who were given a chance to win a prize for the best altar. They were able to delve into their inner art abilities, spiritually reconnecting with those who were important to them.
“Day of the Dead is a day where we can honor our loved ones who have passed,” said Andrea D’Agostaro, a Chicano studies student who created an altar honoring her grandparents. “However, we do it as a celebration to who they were and what they’ve left us with, whether that’s memories, pictures or other personal items. I wanted to represent what reminds me of them and what they liked and enjoyed. Their records, pictures with the family, wine, the flowers and candles, even down to their favorite color.”
The Veterans Club created an elaborate table to salute the deceased members of the military, complete with military-issue gear, photos, pins, candles, sugar skulls and posters. Most of the altars staged along the four walls were dedicated to honoring close friends and family, but some also paid respects solely to important historical and pop culture figures such as Steve Jobs, Selena and the Notorious B.I.G.
Chicano students Jennifer Barajas, Jocelyn Reyes and Patricia Romero won first place in the altar contest and received a $50 gift card to Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. Their altar was in memory of Reyes’s grandparents and Romero’s younger brother who would have been 18 this year. Together, they created a colorful masterpiece of assorted handcrafts, objects, pictures, and other various items that represented the lives of the deceased relatives. The altar’s apex was adorned with a statuette of a praying Mother Mary, standing tall, much like the star on top of a Christmas tree.
The collaboration of the honorary altar built by the two Latino students was significant to Romero because it symbolized the missing tombstone that her little brother’s grave has never possessed.
“My brother passed [away] in 2006,” Romero said. “He was run over at the age of 10 and to this day, he does not have a tombstone. So any chance I get to do something to remember him, I do it. Every time I go to the cemetery to visit him, it breaks my heart.”