ALANA Cultural Center Celebrates Mexican Holiday Día de los Muertos With Festival

Sarah Speegle, Maroon-News Staff

Halloween is not the only major holiday celebrated at the end of October. Beyond the witches, ghosts and goblins of October 31, this season also marks Día de los Muertos, which translates to “Day of the Dead” in English. It is a Mexican holiday that pays tribute to the lives of those who have passed away. With hopes of keeping traditions alive in the Colgate community, the ALANA Cultural Center hosted a Día de los Muertos Festival on Saturday, November 2. 

Upon arrival, students and faculty were immediately greeted with the overall energetic and positive atmosphere of the festival. This heartening energy further grew as people interacted with one another while rotating through three featured stations. First, there was a bracelet making station with brightly colored wooden and plastic beads alongside decorative skull beads. Second, there was a coloring station with a wide assortment of markers that could be used to draw a Día de Los Muertos sugar skull. Lastly, there was a skull decorating station which was easily the most popular activity at the festival. Not only were students and faculty given a traditional sugar skull, but they were also able to use a wide variety of decorative elements to design a beautiful work of art. As people moved between these stations, they shared stories with one another and enjoyed the festive music playing in the background.  

Apart from these fun activities, this event also had a very important purpose. “I feel like a lot of times Día de Los Muertos is confused for Mexican Halloween, and that is not the case. They are totally different celebrations with totally different meanings. I hope that students learn that there is a difference between the two celebrations and learn that Día de los Muertos is very meaningful to Mexico and many other Latin American countries. Another goal of this event is to introduce culture on campus,” junior Jartiza Nunez said. 

Part of teaching about the culture of Día de los Muertos came with sharing food. Beyond smaller snacks such as chips, salsa and guacamole, sweet smells permeated the ALANA Cultural Center as students in the kitchen prepared traditional foods and drinks. For example, hot chocolate was served since it is the traditional beverage of Mexican holidays and celebrations. Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead) was also made because it is a special bread that is solely made on Día de Los Muertos.

As students and faculty enjoyed these tasty treats, they were also encouraged to visit the small altar located in the back of the room. The altar is very important to the Día de los Muertos celebration because the lights and scents of the altar are used to guide one’s ancestors home. Students and faculty were welcome to place pictures of a deceased loved one on the altar. 

This is the ALANA Cultural Center’s second year hosting a Día de los Muertos festival, but the center hopes to make it a tradition on campus. 

“Last year when I was a sophomore, I needed to have an event for ALANA so I decided to do something that reminded me of home and my culture. Therefore, I decided to host this event last year and it ended up being very successful. I then decided to host the event again this year because of its previous success and I hope in the future it becomes a traditional thing at Colgate” Nunez said.    

Having events like Día de los Muertos gives students the space to celebrate their own culture while sharing it with those around them. Learning through traditions and customs allows Colgate members to glimpse into each others lives through celebrating what makes each of them unique.