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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Celebrating the lives of the dead

Photo credit: M.E.c.h.A

Two Chico State student groups are hosting a free public event on Nov. 2 to celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) to share cultural practices with the Chico community.

Nu Alpha Kappa (NAK), a Latino-based fraternity, and the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a (de) Aztlan (M.E.Ch.A.) clubs are hosting this event in Trinity Commons from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. M.E.Ch.A.

M.E.Ch.A. treasurer and second-year Spanish Pre-Credential major, Eric Ureña hopes this event will clarify and dismiss stereotypes about the holiday.

“Día de Los Muertos is (a holiday) to celebrate loved ones that have passed,” Ureña said. “Our culture should be spread out to anyone, it’s welcome to anyone. But again, a lot of people like to stereotype it, saying that it’s Mexican Halloween and that’s one thing that it’s not.”

Day of the Dead is actually part of an annual three-day fiesta called Días de los Muertos.

Oct. 31 is All Hallows Eve. Children make altars to invite angelitos (spirits of dead children).

Nov. 1 is Día de Los Inocentes (Day of the Children). Adult altars are made to invite all spirits back.

Nov. 2 is Día de los Muertos. Families decorate graves and tombs of dead relatives.

“Some families still put crucifixes upon these altars, some…have the Virgin Mary. These were figures that were instilled by the colonization by the Catholic Church,” Toscano said. “This was celebrated by the indigenous people of Latin America, Central, North and South. It’s very spiritual, it’s definitely not religious based, you know even to this day the Catholic church still doesn’t recognize it.”

On Día de Los Muertos, a wide variety of decorations and foods are used to celebrate past relatives. Traditional items include Marigold flowers, Calaveras de azúcar (sugar skulls), photos of dead relatives, tissue paper flowers, candles, pan de Los Muertos (the bread of the dead), and favorite foods of the dead relatives.

“Marigolds carry a specific scent and so once you light the candle on the altar, that invites the spirit of your deceased loved ones,” Toschno said. “Sometimes what happens is that these spirits tend to wander off and so the point of the marigolds is that (their specific scent) is supposed to guide them back to the altar in case they were ever lost.”

Cross-Cultural Leadership Center Para-Professional and first generation student Karla Guzman was born in Mexico and says her family celebrates Day of the Dead every year.

“My family just does the typical altar, we do the food, pictures of those loved ones have passed away,” Guzman said, “we kind of put in what they like, their favorite drinks, candies, favorite food. We buy day of the dead bread and my mom makes (hot) chocolate.”

According to NAK’s director of programs, Sergio Herrera, many of these traditions will be mirrored at M.E.Ch.A and NAK’s Día de los Muertos celebration.

“We’re going to have altares (altars) and those are going to be put on by participating organizations,” Herrera said. “Within those alters there’ll be pictures, sugar skulls, marigold flowers, anything that symbolizes what Día de Muertos means.”

This event is open to the whole Chico community and local youth is encouraged to participate.

“We’re going to have Rosedale Elementary come and they’re going to bring their fifth graders and kindergarteners and we’re going to have activities for them such as face painting and flower tissue making,” Herrera said.

“I really encourage the Chico State community to come on out, it’s a free event, it’s exciting. We have entertainment from 5:30 to 9 p.m. We’re going to have mariachi, baile folklorico, (and) two keynote speakers throughout the day.”

Alex Grant can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.

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