The Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an ancient tradition in Latin America when families remember their departed loved ones and celebrate their lives.
Students taking first and second level Spanish classes celebrated the Day of the Dead on October 23rd by learning about its history and customs, and taking part in dedicating an altar at Gumberg Library. The altar blessing was coordinated by Spiritan Campus Ministry with Fr. Vince Stegman officiating. Students decorated the altar with traditional items including candles, skeletons, water, salt, fruit, honey, and toys. Each student crafted a paper flower as their individual offering for the altar, which will be on display in the Popular Reading Room until November 8. As part of the celebration, students wrote messages to their deceased loved ones on paper butterflies representing the monarch butterflies that return to Mexico each year around November 1, coinciding with the celebration of the Day of the Dead. Traditionally, the butterfly symbolizes the souls of ancestors. Duquesne’s celebration also featured traditional hot chocolate and a sweet bread known as pan de muerte.
The Department of Modern Languages and Literatures has sponsored the Día de los muertos cultural project, led by Professor Mildred López Escudero since 2014. This project “aims to contribute to the University mission in promoting multicultural perspectives and awareness by converging the feeling of being embedded in a Latin American communal celebration with a rewarding experience of learning a new language in a relaxed and fun environment.”
Feedback from students who participated in this year’s activities shows how this project is meeting its objectives. Many students commented on how much they enjoyed the experience of making flowers for the altar, describing it as creative and hands-on fun. One student in Spanish101 said “It’s always fascinating when you make something beautiful with your own hands.” A student in Spanish 102 noted: “I appreciate activities like this that make me feel excited about class.” Finally, a student in Spanish 201 summed up the overall experience saying, “It makes me want to learn more about the culture & also makes me wish I was fluent.”
This event is sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Gumberg Library, and Spiritan Campus Ministry.
The Day of the Dead is an important celebration not only in Mexico but also in other parts of South America. Indigenous Pre-Columbian societies celebrated the dead before the arrival of the Spanish. After their arrival, the celebration was aligned with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) creating a phenomenon which in anthropology is called religious syncretism. Every region or town celebrating the Day of the Dead does so in their own unique way. In recent times, due to the significant Spanish population in the United Sates, it also has become one of the most popular festivities for Hispanic and non-Hispanic communities in some states.
Duquesne's 2019 Day of the Dead Altar will be dedicated on October 23 at 4:40. It will be on display through November 8 at Gumberg Library. It is sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Gumberg Library, and Spiritan Campus Ministry.
This year's altar honors: