‘Dia de Los Muertos’ beautifully honors loved ones

The Cesar E. Chavez Center for Higher Education and the Ethnic and Women’s Studies Department hosted Cal Poly Pomona’s 25th “Dia de Los Muertos” (Day of the Dead) from 4-8 p.m. Nov. 1.

Dia de Los Muertos truly has two parts to its celebration. Day one is Dia de Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents), also called Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Angels), meant to specifically honor children who have passed away. 

Day two is Dia de los Muertos (All Soul’s Day), where both young and old relatives are allowed to return to the living world to visit their loved ones.

Cal Poly Pomona’s commemoration kicked off with a processional dance by Danza Azteca Teuxihuitl, beginning in the Marketplace and leading into the Bronco Commons field. The traditional Azteca prayer and dance included ceremonial sage that filled the charged air, welcoming loved spirits into the space. 

Addressing the crowd, one dancer said, “Our ancestors are very far away. So we make an altar in our home. It’s where we wait and pray to welcome back the dead. To honor their memory, we dance.” 

Dance group Danza Azteca Teuxihuitl performed traditional dance and worship to invite the dead to visit CPP.
Georgia Valdes | The Poly Post

On stage, welcoming remarks began with a land recognition to “the original patrons of the area, the Tongva peoples.”

Throughout the rest of the night, the stage hosted student performances, music, poetry and an open mic. 

Wendy Cordova, coordinator for the Cesar E. Chavez Center, shared her personal thoughts on Dia de los Muertos. 

“When I think of Dia de Los Muertos, I’m honoring my 17-year-old nephew who was shot and died due to gun violence,” she said. 

Decorating the surrounding field were members of CPP club and organization Ofrendas (altars), honoring those who have passed on to the land of the dead. 

Traditionally, an ofrenda is decorated with photographs of loved ones along with their favorite foods, drinks or other personal items. Calaveras de Azucar (sugar skull candy) isn’t just a kid’s treat, but an offering. Cempazuchitl (marigold) flowers are also used to attract the dead to their altars; the bright orange bloom illuminating the area like contained flame.

Ronaldo Leandro, president of the Dumbledore’s Army (DA), was excited to be involved in this year’s celebrations. 

The DA ofrenda included the Hogwarts House that the honored deceased belonged to, such as Alan Rickman who played Professor Snape of Slytherin House. 

“I come from a traditional family. (This event) shares my culture with my club,” Leandro said.  

“La Raza” is a term attributed to José Vasconcelos’ book, “La Raza Cósmica” or “cosmic people,” and celebrates the eclectic Latino/Latina community.
(Georgia Valdes | The Poly Post)

Dotting the path parallel to the back field, patrons had the opportunity to support clubs’ and organizations’ fundraising by selling traditional Mexican foods. 

The smell of tacos, elote and pan de muertos (sweet bread of the dead) was irresistible for most patrons and lines formed quickly. 

A major opportunity to support the community was hosted at the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center booth. Volunteers hosted a silent auction with all the money raised put into the Dreamers Scholarship funds.

Mecir A. Ureta Rivera, Undocumented Student Services interim coordinator said, “I’m proud because this highlights the hardworking students and staff.” 

As dusk settled, the event only became more vibrant. The bright, pigmented colors on the ofrendas, booths and even painted on the faces of guests as calaveras (skulls) were energizing. 

Music and laughter fostered a positive atmosphere, one where the dead could truly feel invited home. 

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