MEChA hosts Día de los Muertos celebration

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The Canoga Park Cuautemoc dance group performing a ritual dance, dressed in traditional aztec attire chanting " questions Vivian los muertos ( long live the dead)". Photo credit: Yomira Saiqui

Yomira Saiqui

Students, faculty and guests gathered on the Sierra Lawn on Thursday, Nov. 1 to start a two-day celebration of dance ceremonies and procession to the Chicano House by the Canoga Park Cuauhtemoc dance group.

There was a name call and response, students’ testimonies and other performances by Cuerva Urban Folk Dance Co. and El Fandanguito, who performed a song about the 43 Ayotzinapa students who disappeared four years ago in Mexico.

The celebration was organized by the Chicana/o department and MEChA de CSUN club. The event was open not only for students but for members of the community who wanted to join “together with the MEChA planning committee, a group of only 10 students (who) came together to fund the free event,” said Melissa Esquivel, event coordinator.

Free Mexican pan dulce and hot chocolate were served in the midst of the celebration. Key decorations included skulls, skeletons, candles, lights, Mexican marigold flowers and the aroma of burned incense.

“The candles and lights are a pathway for the dead to come back and join us,” said Carla Martinez, deaf studies major.

The interior of the Chicano house also had altares (altars) to honor the dead. Altares are tables decorated with candles, flowers and incense, along with pictures of the deceased and the things they liked such as food, drinks and other accessories they once used.

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Altars are ofrendas to the death. An altar is a table decorated with pictures of deceased family member or members, candles, food, flowers, and many other things such as saints and even liquor. Photo credit: Yomira Saiqui

The aroma of the Mexican marigold (cempasuchil) flower further gave the celebration a unique touch with its orange and yellow colors.

“The cempasuchil is the path for the dead to walk in, it gives them life and symbolizes the beauty of dead,” Martinez explained.

For many, this day of the year is a somber time to remember and commemorate those who have passed. During this event, people called out the name of a deceased loved one, with the crowd responding “presente” as a means to infer the dead were present at the event.

“(The) dead aren’t dead, their spirits keep living,” Chicano studies major Raquel Cetz said, in reference to the name call and response.

The celebration gave students and visitors the opportunity to honor their deceased loved ones. Participants gave testimonies and shared stories with the audience to remember their family members and friends.

It was a rare day where both past and future were melded into a one-time frame, for the here and now.

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The tree at the chicano/chicana house was decorated with Mexican marigold flowers, alebrijes and pictures of those who have passed away. Photo credit: Yomira Saiqui