A Celebration for the Living to Honor the Dead

Richard Tzul, Copy Editor

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“Dia de los Muertos,” which translates to Day of the Dead, is a holiday to remember loved ones who have passed away. For Laura Tejeda, assistant director of the Cross Cultural Centers (CCC), Day of the Dead became more special after her maternal grandmother passed away.

“I hold the people near and dear to my heart that passed away all year round to be honest. I light a candle around their pictures in my home all year round. This holiday is a chance for me to feel them a little stronger than I do already,” said Tejada.

At her grandmother’s altar, Tejeda offers “coffee the way she liked it.”

The University-Student Union (U-SU) plaza was filled with Aztec dancing, skull face painting, churros and music from the Pixar movie “Coco” for the “Que Vivan, Forever!” festival on Wednesday; an early celebration of the Day of the Dead.

Tejeda emphasized the event was meant to be inclusive of other cultures and not just exclusively Mexican. As opposed to having sugar skulls, a Mexican tradition, one attraction revolved around kites. She explained that kites the size of buildings are crafted for Day of the Dead celebrations in Guatemala.

“We do want to foster a space where students can celebrate their traditions and they feel like they’re being heard and represented on campus,” said Yareli Jimenez, student program coordinator of the Chicana/o Latina/o Student Resource Center, who chaired the event. “This semester we were very intentional about incorporating different cultures.”

The event drew in participation from across the campus community. An altar contest was held among student organizations.

For their theme, the Chicanx organization MEChA, honored migrants “who have fallen on their journey over” to the U.S., explained Estrella Lopez, the co-chair of the Cal State LA MEChA chapter. This was symbolized by clothes laying on the ground below a makeshift border, surrounded by the words “Chasing the American Dream.” The altar also featured imitation monarch butterflies caged, to represent the migrants, including children, who are put in cages when in U.S. custody. Photos of those that died while in U.S. custody were displayed on the altar as well. MEChA won second place in the contest.

Along with student organizations, different departments got involved for the festivities. Students from an environmental justice class made small “box altars” to honor a range of people including Cesar Chavez and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

“I’m really happy with the Cal State LA community coming together to support-cause they’re the ones that make the event,” said Tejeda. “I think participation and having them build altars to represent and honor the dead is what made the event.”