The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is hosting a Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos celebration wrapping up a series of events honoring Hispanic Heritage Month. This event will take place Oct. 29-Nov. 4. Grand Valley State University students will be able to participate in celebratory activities as well as a community ofrenda (offering).
Día de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, particularly in the Central and South regions and by those of Mexican ancestry. This holiday is centered around the gathering of friends and family to remember those who have passed away and guide those individuals on their spiritual journey.
One of the key aspects of Día de los Muertos is the ofrenda, an altar that is arranged for deceased loved ones to welcome them back to the living world and enjoy their worldly pleasures. The ofrendas often are decorated with not only pictures of those who have died but are also adorned with the individuals’ favorite foods, drinks, and possessions.
OMA created a community ofrenda for the GVSU community in which anyone is able to participate. People of all cultures are able to participate in the building of the altar.
The student program assistant for Latinx initiatives for the OMA and vice president of Latino Student Union Olivia Rodriguez said that Día de los Muertos helps her connect with family and memories, even when she is away from home.
“After moving away to college, my parents mailed me a few items from home to build my own ofrenda with my roommates,” Rodriguez said. “During Día de los Muertos, I like to take the time to think about my favorite memories with my loved ones who have passed and remember that they are always with me in my heart.”
The celebration extends beyond building the ofrenda, coming from a rich culture of creation, shared experiences and activities. This holiday contains many traditions that are both collective across the culture and are individual to each family.
“My favorite aspect of Día de los Muertos is seeing the ofrendas on display in my community because each one is beautiful, colorful and decorated specifically for peoples’ loved ones, which make each one special and unique,” Rodriguez said. “I also love having pan de Muerto, which is a traditional Day of the Dead pan dulce, dipped in a cup of Abuelita hot chocolate.”
In addition to building the ofrenda, the GVSU community can gather to partake in other aspects of Día de los Muertos. The OMA office will serve sweet bread and coffee, customary of the holiday, on the morning of Nov. 1.
The celebration of Hispanic heritage extends beyond the month of October through student organizations like the Latino Student Union that holds weekly meetings in Kirkhof Center and the activities that are put on through OMA.
“We want to empower students to learn about diversity and multiculturalism,” said OMA assistant director Thalia Guerra-Flores. “With our programming and our Laker Connections programs, we want to serve the students of GVSU. We want students to feel like they can identify with a community.”