Dia de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, was celebrated on Nov. 1 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Edna Carlsten Gallery.
The holiday, despite dealing with the usually morbid topic of death and visiting spirits, is not spooky or scary. Dia de Los Muertos is much more than Mexico’s version of Halloween.
“While Halloween is supposed to be scary with haunting ghosts, Dia de Los Muertos is supposed to be fun and a welcoming of the dead,” said freshman Paulette Salazar.
Dia de Los Muertos is a national tradition in Mexico and the holiday spans two days: Nov. 1 through Nov. 2. During these days people build offrendas, similar to altars, to honor loved ones who have passed away.
Students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point’s Spanish Club, Latino Student Alliance, International Club, and Department of Art & Design built offrendas for the celebration.
Offrendas are often built to honor a specific person, and family members prepare the favorite foods and drinks of their deceased. Senior Spanish major Maggie Stollberg helped build the Spanish Club’s offrenda to honor Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
“We chose Frida Kahlo because she’s a very iconic woman in Latin culture,” Stollberg said.
The event also featured traditional Mexican food, a Mariachi band, a gallery talk, and face painting.
UWSP history professor Anju Reejhsinghani spoke about Dia de Los Muertos to help attendees better understand the history of the celebration.
“I thought focusing on the fusion between indigenous and Spanish cultures to create something new would be a good focus,” Reejhsinghani said. “It’s taken several hundred years to develop the tradition as we are celebrating it today.”
While the holiday has been around for a long time, many people of Hispanic decent have not experienced the celebration.
Salazar, a member of the Latino Student Alliance, was excited to tell her parents she would be celebrating Dia de Los Muertos.
“This is my first time, which is really odd since I’m Hispanic,” Salazar said.
Of the roughly 425 who attended, many had never celebrated Dia de Los Muertos before.
Advising Coordinator for the School of Business and Economics, Tonya Kowalski, also experienced the holiday’s celebration for the first time.
“I love it. The food is great, the music is great, the altars are wonderful to look at, and both of my daughters got their faces painted,” Kowalski said.
Kowalski was happy to participate in the Dia de Los Muertos festivities.
“In Western culture, we get stuck in a lamenting period where we’re all just sad,” Kowalski said. “And this is such a healthy way to look at death by honoring and celebrating instead of always being sad.”
Davis and Stollberg value the celebratory aspect of Dia de Los Muertos and intend to carry their outlook on death to their lives beyond college by celebrating the holiday in the future.
“I’ll share it with my friends,” Stollberg said. “And when I’m older and have a family and kids, I’ll share it with them in the future too.”
Dia de Los Muertos is a day to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed and to welcome their spirits back.
“The best part is that death doesn’t need to be scary,” Stollberg said. “It’s just about honoring your loved ones and letting them come back to life for a while.”