November 5, 2010
Students in Proyecto Latino, a student organization that promotes Latino cultural, educational, and social traditions, joined students in Pam Frese’s Peoples and Cultures of Latin America class to co-sponsor the "Day of the Dead" celebration at The College of Wooster this year.
WOOSTER, Ohio — Homecoming isn’t the only event that brings people back to campus each fall. At The College of Wooster, Dia de Los Muertos (a.k.a. "Day of the Dead"), a storied Mexican-American celebration in which departed spirits return to mingle with loved ones, has become an increasingly popular fall tradition.
Co-sponsored by Proyecto Latino, a student organization that promotes Latino cultural, educational, and social traditions, and students in Pam Frese’s Peoples and Cultures of Latin America class, this year’s event was held Nov. 2 in Lowry Center.
“We felt a need to showcase an important aspect of Latino culture, specifically Mexican-American culture in the United States,” said Estancia Cota, a senior from Los Angeles and president of Proyecto Latino. “We wanted to raise awareness among students so we organized several cooking
demonstrations, a dance party, the screening of a documentary film, and a lecture. We also prepared samples of Mexican hot chocolate and Pan DeMuerto ("Bread of the Dead"). I really think we were successful in getting our message out there.”
The annual event gave students an opportunity to experience the tradition as it is celebrated in
other parts of the world, and students from both groups responded by investing themselves in the project. First, they constructed an elaborate three-tier altar, complete with cornstalks, flowers, sugar skulls, papel picado (decorative paper cutouts), strings of blinking lights, and a framed image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, at the base of the spiral staircase in Lowry Center. Then, many of them created ofrendas, or offerings, to a lost loved one. Most took the form of dioramas filled with mementos of their relationship with that person, including photos, newspaper clippings, and other keepsakes.
Ethan O’Neal, a junior psychology major from nearby Apple Creek, took time to remember his grandfather, Jerry, “Pa” McDaniel, who sparked his interest in baseball and inspired him to start collecting trading cards, several of which were placed in his ofrenda.
Lisa Hazelton, a senior anthropology major from South Euclid, paid tribute to her dog, Fluffy, a bichon who lived to the ripe old age of 18 despite a steady diet of hamburgers and cake, both of which were represented in her ofrenda.
Even Professor Frese participated in the exercise by constructing a memorial to her mother, who passed away 14 years ago. Frese included a magnet of a seagull to represent family trips to the beach as well as the plethora of magnets that were plastered on her mother’s refrigerator when she was growing up.
Not all of the spirits were relatives or personal acquaintances. Dan Hanson, a junior cultural area studies major from Pittsburgh, Pa, paid homage to Joey Ramone, the late lead singer of the Ramones, for his influence. “It was the first band I really got into,” said Hanson. “He helped to shape my identity as a person. I decided to play the guitar because of him.”
Liz Mott, a senior sociology major from Briarcliff Manor in New York, noted the value of the assignment. “It was definitely interesting,” she said. “Very emotional, very powerful.”
The altar was disassembled on Wednesday, and the spirits scattered, no doubt hoping
to pass this way again next year.
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