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The Carletonian

Students celebrate Día de los Muertos in the Great Hall, hosted by LASO

Dozens of students gathered in the Great Hall on Sunday, October 31 to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a day of remembrance for family and friends who have passed. The event was planned and hosted by the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) in collaboration with the Chaplain’s Office and the Latin American Studies department, with technical support from PEPS.

As per tradition, the event featured an ofrenda (an altar) adorned with flowers, garlands, candles, and other decorations. Students could place photos of deceased loved ones and offerings to them on the ofrenda. Cards and pens were left on the tables so that students could write names and messages to be placed on the altar.

A presentation by the LASO Board included introductions of the Board members, followed by a history of Día de los Muertos in both English and Spanish. Students and a faculty member played music and performed poetry, including bilingual poems.

During Remembrances, attendees were given the opportunity to speak about family and community members who had passed and light a candle in their honor. Attendees could also submit names and messages online anonymously, which Board members read aloud. Board members and other students also spoke about how they celebrated Día de los Muertos in their own families and communities. Aldo Polanco, a LASO Board member, shares that a personal highlight was seeing “how different people celebrate the holiday and the importance they attach to it. It really ties Latin American cultures together.”

Secretary of LASO Sandy Ramirez adds that as a Salvadoran, her family’s celebration of Día de los Muertos is less high-spirited than the “traditional Mexican celebration of the holiday . . . . we light candles around our home to honor their passing. We remember them and honor them and acknowledge that they’re gone from this plane of existence.” 

Still, Ramirez “love[s] the idea of honoring someone through lively festivities.” She shares that these events make her feel “very connected to the Carleton community . . . . I love that even in such a large place like the Great Hall, people were able to gather and express their sorrows and be vulnerable, but also dance, and eat, and have fun with the people around them.”

Dinner, catered from El Triunfo, took place after the presentation. Attendees shared tamales, rice, beans, conchas (sugar bread), hot chocolate, chips, and guacamole. Students, faculty, and administrators alike shared food and danced.

This year’s annual celebration of Día de los Muertos was starkly different from last year’s, which was held online due to Covid-19 restrictions. LASO went to great lengths to replicate the event online as authentically as possible. Board members constructed an altar in the Chapel and worked in conjunction with PEPS to set up a camera for a live interactive Zoom call. After Board members offered a cultural history of the celebration, participants submitted names and messages to be read, for which Board members lit candles.

“I am glad that DDLM was in person this year,” says Ramirez. “DDLM is an incredibly important holiday in Latin America and part of the holiday’s importance is the intimacy and vulnerability it necessitates from the people around you.”

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