By Mohammad Mujahed
“Día de los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead, is a major holiday celebrated in Mexico. This holiday usually falls on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2.
Many people believe the Mexican holiday is associated with Halloween because they both fall around the same time, but it is not. Día de los Muertos is a day to commemorate the dead and show respect to the family of the deceased in Mexican culture.
Youngstown State University’s Department of Student Experience organized a Día de los Muertos event at Kilcawley Center on Nov. 2. During the event, organizers and fellow students discussed meaning of the holiday.
This event was meant to make students and others fully understand this holiday.
Alicia Langarica, the event organizer and an associate professor of mathematics and statistics, said honoring the deceased is of high importance in Mexico.
“We celebrate the people who died who were dear to our hearts,” Langarica said. “We have a different relationship with the dead in Mexico.”
She explained how the souls of their loved ones would come back to earth on these specific days.
During this holiday, people show respect to their loved ones who have passed away by decorating altars called “ofrendas.”
“We put [ofrendas] in our houses to honor people or family,” Langarica said. “Students brought some pictures of their dead loved ones and put [them] on the altar.”
Maria Flores, a sophomore graphic design major, explained how the altars mean something special for those who celebrate the Mexican holiday.
“We put up pictures and objects of the dead, so when they come back down, they would be satisfied how they are being remembered,” Flores said.
Langarcia added that the ofrendas are more of an offering and have different levels that represent different things.
“Before the Spaniards came, the tradition was when you die you would have to go on a journey with many steps,” she said. “So, when you come back you would have to go through these steps again,” she said.
Langarcia said once the Spaniards arrived, they wanted to keep the tradition, but wanted to add some Catholicism in it. So, they kept the altar to three steps which represents the father, the son and the holy spirit.
The main idea of the event was to educate those who might not have an understanding about what Día de los Muertos is.
“We want students to come and understand why we celebrate the dead,” Flores said.
“We just want to make it clear for everyone that this holiday is not associated with Halloween,” Sofia Mendoza, a senior psychology major, said.
Mendoza said she was pleased with how students came by and asked questions about the holiday’s traditions like the ofrenda. She thought this event was a good way to start a conversation about the true meaning behind Día de los Muertos.