Campus organizations celebrate Day of the Dead

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Biology senior Maria Villalpondo sets up the Altar de Muertos in celebration of Dia de Los Muertos at the Main Mall on Monday night.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

Colorful altars covered in yellow marigolds, flickering candles, sugar skulls, old photographs and dishes stood in front of the UT Tower as part of an altar-decorating contest for a Dia de los Muertos event. 

Once a year on Nov. 2, Mexicans honor their deceased loved ones on the Day of the Dead. Although the holiday coincides with the Catholic observances All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 1 and 2 respectively, indigenous people combined the religious event with their own ancient beliefs, resulting in the celebration that exists today. 

Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity–Eta Alpha Chapter hosted the event Monday, which included the contest, speakers, performances and free food and drinks.

Accounting senior Jonathan Orbe, vice president of recruitment for Sigma Lambda Beta, said this event is held in part to raise cultural awareness. Orbe said that the deceased would not want their family members to be sad.

“Rather than mourn those who have died, we like to celebrate their lives and what they’ve done,” Orbe said. 

Minerva Alderete, undergraduate studies sophomore and member of the Sigma Lambda Alpha sorority, said the day is an opportunity for people to honor the lives of their deceased loved ones. She contributed pictures of her grandfather and aunt to the sorority’s altar.

“Their souls haven’t been forgotten,” Alderete said. “These spirits come to the altar, and it’s kind of like the family’s all together again. It’s just a fun way to look back at your family, look back at your roots.” 

Altars can be made in private homes or public spaces. The multi-level arrangements are decorated with marigolds, the flowers of the dead. Candles and copal incense guide the spirits back to the land of the living. 

Campus Events and Entertainment, Mexican American Culture and the Hispanic Student Association also hosted a Dia de los Muertos gathering Monday. There were activities such as making a suncatcher, making “papel picado” and face painting.  

Architecture senior Michael Stolle, who has never celebrated the Day of the Dead before this year, visited both events and said the University should continue to host these events in order to expose more students to different cultures.

“Here at UT, there are so many different people from so many different backgrounds,” Stolle said. “For me to come and learn about [the Day of the Dead] is really cool.”