Eastern observes Day of the Dead

Katja Benz, Campus Reporter

The final event of Latino Heritage Month, an observance for Day of the Dead, took place Tuesday in the University Ballroom of the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

It was a well-attended event that included free hot chocolate and conchas for attendees.

Latino Heritage month is every year from Sept.15 to Oct. 15. While this event is not within the month, it is important in Latinx cultures.

Elizabeth Lemus, a Spanish professor, said that the event was a way to share Mexican culture on campus.

“Día de los Muertos is an important celebration to commemorate and remember those relatives and friends who have departed,” Lemus said. “It is an excellent way to learn about culture because this is a great celebration in Mexico. And here we start to share that piece of culture with our students in this university campus.”

One of the aspects of Día de los Muertos is having ofrendas, or offerings, for friends and family that have passed.

There were ofrendas and signs detailing the culture of Día de los Muertos as part of Tuesday’s observance.

One of the ofrendas at the event was sponsored by Eastern’s chapter of Sigma Delta Pi, a Spanish honors fraternity.

Bri Bartosz, a senior communication disorders and sciences major, said it detailed missing indigenous women who do not get much news coverage.

“We kind of got the idea from the Gabby Petito case,” Bartosz said. “At least that’s what I was thinking about. One person gets all this coverage, but what about all the thousands and thousands of people from indigenous communities that don’t get that same coverage?”

Gabby Petito was a woman whose story received national attention after she went missing earlier this year. Her remains were found weeks later.

Through these ofrendas, attendees of the event could reflect on Latino culture.

“I think that our beliefs are that our relatives will always live as long as we commemorate and celebrate their lives,” Lemus said. “So it is important for everyone and especially our Latino culture. It is very important to remember and keep in our memories all of those who are departed.”

University President Glassman was also in attendance at the event.

“I came to the event because I always like to come to the Día de los Muertos celebration that we have and see the various tables,” said Glassman.

Día de los Muertos is also important for families and communities to be able to come together.

“We celebrate people all year round,” said Glassman. “Latin American heritage, African American heritage, heritage of humanity does not end when a month ends, and so we embrace it. We have our celebration on campus, but our support and our commitment to diversity and inclusion is in every day.”

There were nine total ofrendas, including Sigma Delta Pi’s.

Others were from the Latin American Student Organization, EIU Pride and the Black Student Union.

There was also an ofrenda for Eastern student Jason Aguilar, who died Saturday. There was a crowd around Aguilar’s ofrenda.

Eric Davidson, interim director of Health and Counseling Services, was also at the observance.

Davidson said that counseling services have received many calls in relation to the recent death on campus, and that the organization is looking into starting a group therapy session focused on handling grief.

Davidson recommended that friends of Aguilar focus on the positive aspects of his life and who he was, journal about what they are feeling and think about what makes them happy and grateful.

“His legacy lives through us and our memories of him, so it’s really important to talk about the good times, the positive memories, and the positive impact that Jason had,” Davidson said. “I would also say it’s important to interact with others. Don’t isolate oneself, don’t be alone, don’t silo yourself from the world. Part of the grieving process is best healed by sharing with others what’s happening.”

Davidson said that if anyone is depressed or down and thinking about hurting themselves or others, they should reach out to any of the resources on campus to talk to someone.

“When it comes to grief, everyone experiences it differently. Some people are grieving right now, and for others it may take days, weeks or even months before it hits them. We like to tell people that if you’re having an emotional response now, that’s okay. If you’re not having an emotional response, that’s okay too. I think talking to others is important and key- seeking support from others, seeking professional help if needed.”

Katja Benz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]