Day of the Dead: Celebrating Día de Los Muertos

The Union Programming Council hosted a Día de Los Muertos celebration that started with kite-making at Bosco Student Plaza, then activities and food in the courtyard of the Union on Wednesday Nov. 2. (Elizabeth Sandstrom | Collegian Media Group)

Day of the Dead, better known in Spanish as Día de Los Muertos, is a Latin American holiday aimed at commemorating and paying respect to the dead while reuniting the dead with the living.

Students and staff assembled at the K-State Student Union to honor the dead, making decorative kites and flying them at Bosco Plaza on Nov. 2.

Inside the Student Union laid an altar — popularly found in Mexican celebrations of Día de Los Muertos — where students and staff could pay their respects. The altar, following tradition, is made of flowers, candles, artwork, statues of skeletons, photographs of the departed and more.

Dr. David Robles, assistant professor in the department of social transformation studies, said he has reverence for the holiday as a first-generation Mexican.

“It is important to acknowledge that [Día de Los Muertos] is not a modern practice, but it goes back to our indigenous roots, pre-Columbian,” Robles said. “It helps us heal from whatever loss we’re still grieving from or to think about our loved ones who have passed.”

Dr. Maria Ballejo, assistant professor in the department of social transformation studies, said the splendor of Día de Los Muertos is unique and said there is a considerable difference between it and Halloween.

“[Día de Los Muertos] is something that is respectful and moves beyond simply a Halloween celebration, which is not the case, but highlights the beauty of life and death,” Ballejo said.

During the event, celebrators were gifted sugar cookies and horchata. Meanwhile, high school student Jazmin Ramirez performed and sang Spanish songs to commemorate the dead.

“One of the songs talks about passed loved ones,” Ramirez said. “Another is about La Llorona.”

La Llorona, or the Weeping Woman, is a famous Mexican folktale about a mother who drowned her children and then herself out of remorse for her children. Her ghost is said to wander in search of them.

Yolanda Broyles-González, a Día de Los Muertos event speaker, explained the importance of La Llorona on this memorable day.

“La Llorona is very important. This woman, who moves between life and death, has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Broyles-González said. “Death is alive, and death is acknowledged as being alive.”