By Gene Williams
Cal Poly students and the surrounding community took part in the
13th annual Dia De Los Muertos celebration Thursday from 5 to 10
p.m. in University Park.
This annual event, held by students from the Caeser E. Chavez
Center, celebrated life through death with music, food and sugar
skulls as offerings to past loved ones.
The event places a defiant perspective on the concept of death
as participants remember the dead by giving offerings to makeshift
altars as a way of remembrance of family and people within the
The event kicked off around 3 p.m. with face painting at the
center, followed by a precession from the University Steps to the
park. Festivities started around 5 p.m. as participants’ clubs and
organizations such as Delta Delta, Lambda Theta Alpha and ethnic
and women’s studies students presented their altars to the
Altars, always a main attraction, bring students out to this
event every year and showcase death in a respectful yet festive
way. Offerings such as candles, pictures, food, blankets, statues
and sugar skulls were items used in all altars.
“The significance of altars is historical: they honor gods and
ancestors,” said Dr. Gilbert Cardena, ethnic and women’s studies
professor. “We create altars to show [Latin] history to the
Altars decorated with marigold petals served as “the flowers of
the dead” because when the petals are burned, they smell like bone.
Food offerings served as having a meal with the dead. This may seem
a bit morbid to some, but the event is a time where participants
can laugh and celebrate life in a time of mourning and educate the
campus community about how different cultures celebrate death.
“Cal Poly is an institution that celebrates different cultures,”
said University President Michael Ortiz.
Each altar had a central theme, from family to victims of
oppression. Students were asked about the significance of their
Greek organization Delta Delta’s altar was called “Family” in
homage to their fallen brother Gill Cavlvacanit, who passed in
2001. Alpha Phi Sigma’s altars’ theme, “Fallen Soldiers,” mourned
the passing of soldiers at war.
Lambda Theta Alpha collaborated with Delta Sigma Theta on a
revolutionary women of war-themed altar and with fourth-year urban
and regional planning student Diane Orozco to “show the advocates
of indigenous people.”
Ethnic and women’s studies students also contributed to the
event by constructing altars that made event goers think
metaphorically. A student from the EWS 404 class altar’s theme,
titled “Natural Disasters,” used floods, earthquakes and hurricanes
as metaphors of the wrath of nature verses race relations.
It connected disasters from Hurricane Katrina to the 1906 San
Francisco earthquake with racial tensions between various
“There is a greater force telling us to come together and stop
the hate,” said Dania Geatty, fifth-year ethnic and women’s studies
EWS 140 students’ altars showcased oppression victims by taking
a look at the study of “isms.”
“Our theme was to celebrate diversity,” said Cintia Farjado, an
I-Poly High School student.
An average of 300 people attends this one-day event each year.
For some, it is a time of commemoration.
“It’s a time for remembering those who have died to get us where
we are today,” said Ruben Hoyos, a fourth-year psychology
Others see the festival as a means of promoting cultural
“It brings cultural perspective to those who are not aware of
what this event means, and for those who are Latino it educates
them as well,” said Martha Gallo, a fifth-year gender, ethnicity
and multicultural studies student.
Dia De Los Muertos is celebrated nationwide from Oct. 31 to Nov.
2. Food and entertainment were provided by student organizations
and performances featured folk band La Banda Skalavera, Movimineto
Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan, Central American and Caribbean
Cooperative Association of States for Scholarships students, and
Dia de los Muertos illuminates spirits
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