Dia de los Muertos honors Mexican culture at RLC

Día de los Muertos is observed in many Latin American countries. In English, it translates to “Day of the Dead.” On this day, people remember and honor the lives of their deceased loved ones.

Richland held a Dia de los Muertos celebration on Nov. 2 in the Brazos Gallery. The event was organized by the Richland’s chapter of Achieving Latino Academic Success (ALAS). The event introduced a little bit of Mexican culture into Richland College life.

More than 50 people filled the Brazos Gallery, including students, instructors, professors and staff from Richland. The event included a brief explanation of celebration followed by the opportunity to decorate sugar skulls.

The club has held a Dia de Los Muertos celebration on campus for the past six years.

Professor Michelle Navarro, makes sugar skull for the bake sale on Nov. 2.

Professor Michelle Navarro, makes sugar skull for the bake sale on Nov. 2.

ALAS held a Halloween fundraiser, selling pastries, candy and some skull coin purses. They raised about $400 which will be donated to the nonprofit organization, Austen’s Autistic Adventure.

Professor Michelle Navarro said this event shows respect for Mexican culture and gives Latino students cultural support. She has international students and many of them are curious about Dia de los Muertos but they do not know what it means.  For Navarro, death is not a fearful thing; it is where everyone is going, so to her, it is an honorable day to keep the dead near.

Ashley Long, a biology student, was the first one to finish her skull. She used different colors and painted a heart on her skull. According to Long there are a lot of sad things happening in the country. “It is interesting to know that in other places [death] is a good thing,” said Long.

In Mexican culture, it is believed that the spirits of the dead come to visit and say “hello” to the people. The celebration is an occasion for sharing food, memories and fun activities with family. Spending time in cemeteries is a popular tradition and in some cases the whole night is dedicated to taking care of graves of those who have passed on.

ALAS adviser Professor Michelle Navarro, second from the left, and members of the club share Latino culture during Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 2.

ALAS adviser Professor Michelle Navarro, second from the left, and members of the club share Latino culture during Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 2.

Altars are built in homes and public places where everybody is welcome to participate in offerings. A photo of the dead relative is present to honor his or her spirit by offering  everything on the altar which also includes the decorated sugar skulls and the bread of “muerto.” A path of Cempasúchil flowers and a copal (incense) are lit and left as clues to guide the dead as they arrive back at home.

The principal items that you can find on an altar are food and beverages preferred by the dead during their lives.

Navarro said she put a picture of her father on the altar to honor and remember him. “I would like, some day when it is my turn to go, for people to honor me and remember me for many years.”

The event was considered a success. Many people who attended learned some new things about Dia de los Muertos. Some students voiced the opinion that it was good to have this kind of event on campus because it is a multicultural school and everyone can learn a little about different cultures.