Dia de los Muertos to raise cultural awareness around Eastern

Mercury Bowen, Entertainment Reporter

Eastern’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday in the University Ballroom at the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

The University Board, the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), the Foreign Language Department, the Spanish Club, Alpha Psi Lambda and the Spanish Honor Club Sigma Delta Pi will host the event.

According to Professor Kristin Routt, Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a holiday on the Catholic calendar celebrated all over the Catholic world, and in a specific way in southern Mexico.

“Most of our images come from practices in central and southern Mexico,” Routt said. “There people believe (Dia de los Muertos) is a time when the souls of their past loved ones can come back and and visit and just be for a while with their family members and loved ones that are still here in the world.”

Routt said some of the practices have also become more common in the United States, including cemetery visits in which people place flowers on and clean up loved ones’ graves.

“There’s a special flower called ‘cempasúchil,’ which is the Nahuatl word for ‘marigold,’” Routt said. “Those have a special odor. Those are supposed to help the souls find their way back to the grave sites and the cemetery.”

Routt’s Spanish Grammar and Context class will be contributing ofrendas, or offerings, to the event as part of a service-learning project for the class.

The Spanish Club will be hosting a craft table, where attendees can create a nicho, which is something like a miniature altar.

Another craft table will be hosted by the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi, where attendees will have the opportunity to create skeleton puppets.

Alpha Si Lambda will also be hosting a craft table, and the celebration will feature a Cultural Scavenger Hunt with prizes for the participants.

Tess McArthy, the University Board human potential coordinator, said she believes the event has a lot to offer attendees.

“It’s just lots of really fun stuff,” McArthy said. “LASO performs a traditional dance routine every year, so I always look forward to that.”

McArthy said it is important for students to attend the celebration because it will increase their cultural awareness.

“Coming to school was a cultural experience for me just because there are so many different people from different backgrounds,” McArthy said. “I think if we’re all more aware of each other and more respectful of each other’s cultures and practices, that it will make Eastern and the world in general a more respectful place.”

Routt said she hopes the event will make students feel comfortable being around something different than what they normally would see.

“The idea is to kind of build your muscle for being comfortable with difference,” Routt said.

Mercury Bowen can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].