GVSU to host annual Day of the Dead celebration

GV to host annual Day of the Dead celebration

By Arpan Lobo | 10/30/17 1:18am

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GVL/Mackenzie Bush - GVSU students celebrate Day of the Dead with LAS, Latin American, and Latino Studies by placing pictures of loved ones on an alter. The alter, built by artist Roli Mancera, was set up in Neimeyer the week of Nov. 1, 2016.

When one thinks of death, celebration is often among the last things on their mind. However, in some cultures, death is merely a stage of life, and celebrating is a part of moving on in the cycle of life.

To celebrate those who have passed away, as well as show a unique aspect of another culture, the Grand Valley State University department of Latin American and Latino/a studies is hosting a "Dia de los Muertos"—or "Day of the Dead"—celebration Wednesday, Nov. 1, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the lobby of the Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center. 

Co-sponsors for the event include the Spanish section of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA), the Latino/a Faculty and Staff Association, and the International House.

“When we think about the dead, it’s pretty morbid. You wouldn’t call it a celebration,” said David Stark, GVSU professor of history and coordinator of Latin American and Latino/a studies. “This celebration, this Day of the Dead, it goes to show that the spirit lives on. It commemorates the journey (of life).”

The event is a part of the OMA’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration. Dia de los Muertos is a holiday traditionally celebrated throughout Mexico, originating in the southern and central regions of the country. The holiday gives individuals the opportunity to remember loved ones after they’ve passed away.

“In American culture, death is something you feared or dreaded,” Stark said. “With Dia de los Muertos, death becomes something you actually look forward to.”

The event at GVSU gives students the opportunity to learn about a unique festivity, regardless of the cultural background they bring in.

“We just think it’s really important to celebrate the traditions of Hispanics and Latinos not only in the U.S. but also in Latin America,” said Adriana Almanza, assistant director of the OMA. “Traditions are important to be maintained (but) also to engage other communities who might not be as familiar with these types of traditions.”

The Hispanic Heritage Celebration gives GVSU students and community members the opportunity to gain insight into a culture that individuals might not be that informed about. The events are designed to be inclusive for all students and community members, regardless of cultural backgrounds.

“We try to do a good job of creating diversity within the program,” Almanza said. “There’s a little bit of variety for everyone, I think, for (being) able to attend and to engage in a way that they might not have a chance to otherwise.

“We try to do a good job of really creating this intersectional approach where we bring in multiple identities and not only just tie it in to the Latino and Hispanic communities.”

To remain true to the traditional aspects of Dia de los Muertos, some of the different food and drink items that can be found at traditional celebrations will be at the event. An altar will be created and adorned with flowers and candles to signify the commemoration of the dead as well.

“To show that this is a happy event, people will bring food and drink,” Stark said. “The celebration binds us together.”

Music will also be prevalent at the event, and all who are able to attend are encouraged.

“You develop a greater appreciation for the cycle of death,” Stark said. 

Those interested in learning more about this event and others in the Hispanic Heritage Celebration can visit the OMA website at www.gvsu.edu/oma or visit the office, located in the Kirkhof Center.

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