Day of the Dead to teach culture, celebrate life

Kennedy Nolen, Multicultural Reporter

Latino registered student organizations will turn the Grand Ballroom into a fiesta for Día de los Muertos from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Although this coincides with the American holiday of Halloween, Julisa Bautista, president of the Latin American Student Organization and sophomore pre-engineering major, said LASO wants to let students know the Day of the Dead is a separate entity.

Bautista and three others will be performing a Mexican dance, because Día de los Muertos is most popular in Mexico, she said.

Each culture in Latin America has a unique dance, specific to that country.

For example, Ecuador’s dance is softer and slower, while Mexico’s dance is upbeat with more movement, Bautista said.

Stephanie Beltran, a sophomore biological sciences major, said the dance is known as  “folklorico” in Mexico, which means folklore in English.

“We are just trying to let Eastern be more culturally aware and informed,” Bautista said.

The dancer usually is adorned with a headdress, so LASO will have a table set up to make flower crowns, Beltran said.

“This year we really wanted to have a different approach,” Beltran said. “Since the Latin American Student Organization danced at Yell like Hell, they wanted to use that same dance and try to use it for Day of the Dead.”

Bautista said LASO will also be giving out goody bags filled with candy.

Last year, LASO made an altar and volunteered, raising roughly $100 for University Board, Beltran said.

The RSO will be making an altar this year for multiple deceased loved ones, using submitted photographs from students.

Altars are a sign of respect to honor dead family members and loved ones, and they typically include things like different types of food, bread, candles and flowers.

Day of the Dead falls on Nov. 2 of this year, but LASO was able to celebrate Oct. 31.

Nov. 1 is a day in which people can honor children and young people who have died, whereas Nov. 2 is dedicated to celebrating the lives of now deceased older people.

Latin American countries have recently started to incorporate Oct. 31 because they have gained the influence from the United States with Halloween.

Bautista said she encourages students to go because they will learn something they did not already know.

“It is also good to be aware, especially because Charleston is such a small place and Eastern has not a lot of students,” she said. “So not only are (students) going to learn something, but they’re going to be culturally informed.”

Bautista said the celebration Tuesday is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff to see and understand the differences between Halloween and Día de los Muertos.

Kennedy Nolen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].