The Chicano House at California State University Northridge transformed itself with bright lights, colorful decorations and beautiful art this Oct. 29th in honor of Noche De Ofrendas; the first ritual celebrated to commence el Dia de los Muertos, commonly known as Day of the Dead.
This ancient Latin American holiday, typically celebrated Nov. 1st – 2nd, is an opportunity for family and friends to get together to commemorate and celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones.
Traditionally, beautifully decorated alters are created and filled with symbolic ofrendas (offerings) for the deceased. Ofrendas typically consist of what the departed enjoyed, and are laid out in hopes of drawing in their souls to return to earth on this day.
Ofrendas usually include the late individual’s favorite food and drink in addition to candles, photos, yellow marigolds, salt, pan de muerto (sweet bread), sugar skulls, trinkets and other symbolic items.
This is the third year the Chicano Studies Department teamed up Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (M.E.Ch.A.) to host the two-day event at CSUN.
“We’ve celebrated Day of the Dead here for 30 years at CSUN, but this is only our third year doing Noche De Ofrendas,” event coordinator and history/Chicano studies major Karina Ortiz said. “It seems to gather momentum as the event goes on, and we definitely saw a lot more people this year.”
The event began with students and attendees sharing stories of their late loved ones they had created ofrendas for.
Ingrid Peraza, an undeclared sophomore at CSUN, initially didn’t celebrate Day of the Dead but shared her ofrenda to her grandmother after having a change of heart.
“After my grandmother passed away, my family didn’t do any ofrendas after her funeral because we didn’t want to bring the hurt back,” Peraza said. “But in my Chicano 350 class (religions and spiritualties in Chicano communities), I realized what putting up an ofrenda really was. It’s really just about celebrating the happiness that person brought while they were living. So it kind of made it special that I could remember my grandma in a better way.”
After individual’s stories, poetry was recited and live music performed till 10 p.m.
Complimentary pan dulce and warm champurrado were handed out to attendees as they watched the event.
The Chicano house had transformed its interior into a gallery of alters that was open throughout the celebration for guests to walk around and see.
“I just moved here, and coming to this event reminded me of home because my parents have an art gallery where I am from,” urban studies and planning major Quetzalli Enrique said. “Hearing everyone’s stories gave me a sense of community. The atmosphere just feels inviting.”
The second night of the festivities will occur tonight Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. – 12 a.m. midnight at CSUN Chicano house.
“It’s really cool to see the different ways everyone celebrates the Day of the Dead,” Ortiz said. “Tonight is more about remembering our loved ones, while Friday night is more of a celebration. It’s something you don’t want to miss!”