UIW Remembers Loved Ones Through Celebration of Día de los Muertos

November 3, 2023

The UIW community celebrated Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, on Nov. 1 and 2. The annual celebration is popular amongst Mexican and Latino communities to remember and honor loved ones who have passed away.

The origins of the celebration are rooted within pre-Columbian, Indigenous religions of Mesoamerica and Spanish Catholicism. Although it might be misconceived that the day is intended to celebrate death, it is more accurately intended to celebrate life and the eternal nature of love. “Like the beautiful monarch butterflies that return to Mexico in the fall, we believe the souls of our loved ones live on and commune with us spiritually,” described Dr. Arturo Chávez, Associate Vice President for Mission & Ministry and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

It is a common Día de los Muertos tradition that altars known as ofrendas be displayed in honor of those who have passed. It is believed that said loved ones will visit the ofrendas in spirit as a means of visiting their living loved ones again.

A variety of items are placed on the altars such as candles, glasses of water, pan de muerto (bread), incense, colorful papel picado, and skeletons and skulls. In addition, pictures of loved ones who have passed on and their favorite foods are also placed on the altar in remembrance of them.

Acknowledging just how much this holiday means to a large part of the city’s culture, UIW brought the celebration to campus. In buildings throughout UIW’s various campuses, colorful displays and ofrendas honoring the deceased loved ones of students and employees donned the hallways. Community members were invited to write their loved ones’ names into the University’s Book of Remembrance, and worship services, Masses and special progamming efforts were dedicated to their memory.

Dr. Chavez also invited the community to the Ofrenda for Justice and Peace event to hear a presentation about the history of the holiday and to honor the lives of those killed in hate crimes. “In the darkness of hate and violence, we can be the light,” Chavez stated.