A Taste of Dia de Los Muertos

Jasmine Baker-

Halloween has finally come to an end, but there is another holiday that often seems to get overshadowed by Halloween festivities: Dia de Los Muertos, also referred to as Day of the Dead. University of Wisconsin–Stout’s multicultural student org Latino Unidos brought a little taste of Dia de Los Muertos to campus by setting up a gallery and altar in the Robert S. Swanson library plaza, the public was able to place pictures of their loved ones on the altar.

The holiday, celebrated on Oct. 31 until Nov 2, is widely acknowledged throughout several parts of Latin America, the United States and certain regions of Mexico. The tradition honors loved ones who have passed on from this world by placing offerings such as candles, food and memorabilia on a private altar called an ofrenda.

Along with the gallery arrangement, Eduardo Guiterrez, a St. Paul folk artist, displayed his altar installation named “Ofrenda para Raquel (Altar for Raquel)” in memory of his late mother. Guiterrez has based a range of his art pieces off of the cultural significance of Dia de Los Muertos, and has never been afraid to tackle the topic of death.

“I started off as a painting major in River Falls, and found a lot of my inspiration was around the concept of death. People thought that I was insane because of that, but they don’t know that Mexican culture looks at death in a more sincere scope,” Guiterrez said. The folk artist also educates people about the key implications to why these altars are made.

“Ofrendas are made to welcome the spirit of the departed. Their preferred foods, favorite toys and trinkets are laid out to make the spirit feel at home and remembered,” Guiterrez said.

The president of Latinos Unidos, Brittany Zavala, hosted the event to further promote the Mexican holiday to students, staff and members of the community that are open to learning about new cultures.

“Normally, people think death is something to be afraid of, but Dia de Los Muertos turns the idea around by celebrating their memory. I’m glad that students have this opportunity to learn about a culture they are unfamiliar with,” Zavala said.  

The celebration of the holiday has made a complete shift from the former years when festivities were more private. This year, the organization decided to open up the celebration to the public. “The holiday [was] different this year because of the huge venue shift. [It] was more welcoming to the community and [we had] people openly participate in the celebration,” Zavala said. Traditions such as Dia de Los Muertos open plenty of opportunities for the campus to interact with cultures and traditions that have never been noticed before.