The Day of the Dead Lives On: LASO Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

The Day of the Dead Lives On: LASO Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Kate Preziosi

This past Thursday, November 2, Hamilton’s Palace Theater hosted two Latin American performance groups to help members of the Colgate and Hamilton communities commemorate El D?-a de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead. The event was the last in a series that honored Latin American Heritage Month. Colgate’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO) sponsored the event, which celebrated the music, dance and food of Latin culture.

The festivities were a modernized version of an ancient Aztec ritual meant to honor ancestors passed. For centuries, Latin Americans of Mexico, Central America and, more recently, the United States have gathered between November 1 and 2 to celebrate death not as an end, but rather as a continuation of life.

When the Spanish conquistadors landed in Mexico over 500 years ago, they found the Aztec natives celebrating El D?-a de los Muertos, and mistook it for a pagan ritual mocking death. The Spaniards, hoping to eradicate the festival altogether, worked hard to make it correspond with Christian traditions. They even changed the date to have it coincide with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

But the custom failed to assimilate with their European culture. Today, thousands still congregate, donning the original wooden skull masks, or calacas, which are later placed on intricately adorned alters which are dedicated to the dead.

In Hamilton, the festivities began with refreshments at 7:00 p.m., where a variety of Colgate students, teachers and families from the surrounding Hamilton area enjoyed traditional Mexican dishes including nachos and burritos. Later, senior Bernadette Torres introduced the performers and provided background on the long-standing Latin tradition.

“D?-a de los Muertos marks a time to dance, sing, and pray,” she explained to the audience at the Palace Theater. “It is a festival to think about and celebrate loved ones who have died.”

Mexican singer Veronica Robles, band Mariachi Son de America and dance group Monte Alban followed for a one-hour performance featuring a variety of pre-colonial and modern day Mexican music.

Robles would frequently interrupt the concert to interpret the following number, asking before one melancholy song about immigration: “Is it worth leaving your family?”

First-year Rachel Wassel attended as a supplement to her studies in her CORE culture class on Mexico.

“I loved the costumes,” she said. “It was really interesting to get a more personal perspective on Latin American culture.”

LASO, who coordinated the D?-a de los Muertos celebration, had the audience on their feet dancing by the last number. LASO members were pleased with the turnout and level of excitement of the event. The event was an enjoyable was to commemorate this historic holiday.

This student organization is dedicated to creating a sense of community for those on campus who identify themselves with Latino culture. The event concludes a series of events commemorating Latin American Heritage Month, which ran from September 15 to October 15.