By Anya Glushko, Features Editor for The Current
The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, gathered together the University of Missouri-St. Louis community to honor an important Hispanic custom. The celebration combined the Day of the Dead, Salsa Night and Halloween together and blended American and Hispanic traditions.
On November 1, the museum room in Provincial House on South Campus was transformed into a ball room and decorated with balloons, spiders, ghosts, and pumpkins. Instructors taught attendees basic and more advanced dance moves. The altar contained pictures and biographies of significant people who have passed away; it was ornamented with flowers, skulls, and candles. The altar also had offerings such as bread, water, and salt, which symbolize the essentials of life.
“It’s very popular to see sugar skulls and bright flamboyant colors for this holiday,” said Mary Von Holten, sophomore, graphic design. “It’s very different because normally in America we mourn the dead. Hispanic culture celebrates their ancestor’s lives and recognizes them. It is like a festival, it’s a feast. People bring offerings to those who passed away; it keeps you attached to where you came from. It keeps your loved ones in your memories.”
Spanish music brought in a diverse audience to enjoy a warm and friendly atmosphere of celebration.
“I am a part of HISLA [Hispanic Latino Association] and I came to support the organization,” said Briona Perry, sophomore, biochemistry. “It’s a good event. I try to dance and I like salsa… [The event] brings people of different cultures together.”
Students danced and got a glance of different Hispanic customs, such as honoring the dead, and traditional dances, such as bachata, which is a music style that originated in Dominican Republic.
“I wanted to incorporate HISLA in an event for a long time and was glad that they were on board with a program,” said Shatera Davis, sophomore, communications, president of the Residential Hall Association. “I am glad we finally got to collaborate with a great organization like HISLA; and we hope to do it again soon and with other organizations as well.”
The audience consisted of mostly UMSL students who live on the campus.
“I heard about this event from living at Oak Hall,” said Aaron Mann, junior, art and education. “I was interested because I wanted to experience something new. I want to learn and see more about a different culture.”
The event did not have a large attendance; only about two dozen people showed up. HISLA member Sonia Martinez, junior, studio art, wishes that such events were publicized more broadly and that more people would attend.
“I chose to participate because I feel that Missouri does not have large number of Hispanic students,” said Martinez. “Hispanic community is not very visible at UMSL. My goal is to share a little bit of culture, music and arts with students who would probably not be exposed to it otherwise… [Day of the Dead] is a celebration that isn’t specific to any region; everyone can celebrate it. It’s important to remember those who aren’t with us anymore…and it’s a lot of bright colors in a gloomy time of the year.”
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