Day of the Dead celebration honors the fallen


Josh Saxton

Jess Mathon, a junior middle level education major gets her face painted on Wednesday during the “Dia de los Muertos” celebration hosted by the Latin American Student Organization in the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King, Jr. University Union.

Torri Griffith, Staff Reporter

Painted faces in colors of white, black, pink and purple strode around the Grand Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union Wednesday celebrating Day of the Dead.

Dia de Los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead, the English term most Americans use.

The Day of the Dead celebration included a selfie booth, paper flower booth, maracas and ofrendas, or alters.

Stephanie Dominguez, the vice president of the Latin American Student Organization, said this event is a way to honor any loved ones who have passed away.

Gladys Valentin, an elementary education major, said this event is celebrated in two parts. Nov. 1 is when they celebrate the saints, and Nov. 2 is when they celebrate their families.

The Dia de Los Muertos celebration took place at 6 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom in the Martin Luther King Jr. Union Wednesday.

Valentin said this event was an open community event. She said it welcomed Eastern students, faculty, the Charleston community and families.

Shamerea Richards, the University Board cultural arts coordinator, said cultural arts has been holding this event for the past three years.

“In the past this event has been very intimate.” Richards said. “We wanted to make this years celebration on a larger scale. We wanted to bring more creativity to the event this year.”

She said the UB plans most of their events the semester before.

Last semester while panning the event, Richards said she wanted to incorporate LASO.

LASO was a co-sponsor of the event along with the foreign language department, Latin American studies, Sigma Delta Pi and the Spanish Club.

Richards said this year is the first year it was held in the Grand Ballroom, it was usually held in the Cultural Center.

“Although we attend a predominately white university, it is every important we educate ourselves on different cultures,” Richards said. “This event was a perfect opportunity because many different races came to learn about Dia de Los Murtos, and participate in the activities.”

The altars were a popular activity during the event.

Many people had deceased family members they were honoring. They did this by displaying their loved ones on the decorated altar.

“You leave their favorite things on the altars,” Dominguez said. “You can leave their favorite foods, drinks, sweet breads and pictures. They will use these things to carry on in their after lives.”

Richards said she was honoring many people she cherished, including her aunt, who passed away from breast cancer.

Valentin said she was honoring her grandfather, Cruz Valentin.

Richards said this event set the bar and made it different from the many other Day of the Dead events on Eastern’s campus.

“I think people got really excited about the face painting,” Dominguez said. “They realized that these face paintings were cultural, not costumes.”

“Word of mouth traveled fast about this event, so many different groups helped co-sponsor so the event was publicized on a very broad platform” Richards said

She said the event was different because students were able to do a variety of things during the small time frame of the event.

Students had a chance to win a $25 gift card to Los Potrillos, the first 50 students received free T-shirts, and there was also a dance section of the event called Caballo Dorado, which is a traditional Latin American dance.

When asked about the misconceptions of Day of the Dead, Richards, Valentin and Dominguez agreed many people tend to confuse Day of the Dead with Halloween.

Dominguez said people actually mourn on the Day of the Dead, she said the next day people will still feel the heart ache of their family members passing away.

Valentin said that Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration; it is not a way to dress up and eat candy.

“There are many cultural and religious aspects that go into Day of the Dead,” Dominguez said. “Halloween is a holiday where people dress up, party, and trick-or-treat, there is not a lasting significance to it.”


Torri Griffith can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]