Top Story

Dia De Los Muertos event at CSU-Pueblo to honor ancestors

636views
Sugar skulls auctioned at an event Thursday night. photo by Candice Geier
Sugar skulls auctioned at an event Thursday night. photo by Candice Geier

Colorado State University-Pueblo will host  Day of the Dead, Dia de Los Muertos, giving students, faculty and staff and opportunity to honor those who have passed on.

Dia de los Muertos is a Spanish holiday celebrated in Mexico which pays tribute to people whom have passed on.  The holiday started when pre-Hispanic people of Mexico practiced rituals.  Native people were converted to Roman Catholicism which corresponds with All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. 

The event, being held Nov. 2,will have a prayer vigil, dances, informational video about the holiday and altar competition.  Altars will be available for viewing from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Occhiato University Center Ballroom and Great Hall.  The vigil will be held 6-7:30 p.m. in the OUC Ballroom and attendees will be able tohonor loved ones that passed on  There will alsobe performances by the Toch.tli Aztec Dancers during the day and evening. 
 
Students, community members, campus organizations and student clubs can participate in the altar competition.  Campus organizations and student clubs should call Fawn Amber Montoya, coordinator of Chicano Studies at 719-549-2620 or e-mail her at fawnamber.montoya@colostate-pueblo.edu about the competition. 
 
As a tradition in honoring the dead,Latinosdecorate graves and altars they build in their homes with flowers, the deceased’s favorite food, photos and candles. People also celebrate in the cities by eating food, drinking alcohol and wearing wooden skull masks. 

 If your student club, campus organization, or office would like to participate in creating an altar, you MUST reserve a space by emailing the coordinator of Chicano Studies at fawnamber.montoya@colostate-pueblo.edu or calling the Diversity Resource Center at 549-2627.
 Altar set-up begins on Sunday, November 1st at 10 am.  Set-up must be completed on November 2nd, no later than 11:30 a.m.
 Please find below the guidelines for a traditional altar, however, you may venture and be creative, as long as you remain respectful of the meaning of an altar; celebrating someone’s life.
 You may honor one person or a group of people.
 There will be 2 competitions one for CSU-Pueblo students and the second for community members.

What you need to build a traditional altar:

The most important thing to place on your Day of the Dead altar is a photograph of the person(s) to whom you are dedicating the altar.

The three tier altar is covered in papel picado – which is bright colored tissue paper with cut out designs. The paper can be either handmade or purchased.  Three important colors are purple (for pain) white (for hope) and pink (for the celebration).

Candles are also placed all over the altar.  Purple candles again are used to signify pain. On the top level of the altar, four candles need to be placed – signifying the four cardinal points. The light of the candle will illuminate the way for the dead upon their return.

Three candy skulls are placed on the second level.  These represent the Holy Trinity. On the center of the third level a large skull is placed – this represents the Giver of Life.

Sugar skulls auctioned at an event Thursday night. photo by Candice Geier
Sugar skulls auctioned at an event Thursday night. photo by Candice Geier

All bad spirits must be whisked away and leave a clear path for the dead soul by burning in a bracero, a small burner used to cook outside.  Or you can use a sahumerio to burn copal or incense.  A small cross of ash is made so that the ghost will expel all its guilt when it is stepped on.         

The Day of the Dead bread, pan de muerto, should be accompanied by fruit and candy placed on the altar.  The pan de muerto is plain round sweet bread sprinkled with white sugar and a crisscrossed bone shape on top. Pan de muerto is available in Mexican food stores and bakeries in Pueblo. You can also add the person’s favorite food.

A towel, soap and small bowl are put on the altar so that the returning souls can wash their hands after their long trip. There is a pitcher of fresh water to quench their thirst and a bottle of liquor to remember the good times of their life.

To decorate and leave a fragrance on the altar, the traditional cempasuchil flower is placed around the other figures.  Cempasuchil comes from Nahuatl cempoalxochitl, that means the flower with four hundred lives.  The flower petals form a path for the spirits to bring them to their banquette.

*The following websites will assist you with ideas as you prepare your altars*
http://www.diademuertos.net/
http://www.ladayofthedead.com/history.html
http://www.dayofthedead.com/

**Altar decorations and materials are the property of those setting up the altar, any damage done to the altar during setup, the celebration, or at take down is the responsibility of the entrants and not the responsibility of the Dia De Los Muertos committee or CSU-Pueblo. **

Information provided by Cora Zaletel,executive director of External Affairs at CSU-Pueblo and Encyclopedia Britannica.