The University Student Union Ballroom was transformed into a space of cultural appreciation and celebration from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday night for La Raza Student Association’s annual Dia de los Muertos event. The holiday is widely celebrated in Mexico, Central and South America and is meant to honor and remember loved ones who have passed away.
Over 400 students and alumni filled up seats at decorated tables and enjoyed artist vendors, music and dance performances, raffles, a photo booth and free plates of rice, beans and pupusas. Attendees were also informed on both the holiday and Latinx culture through performances, speeches and altars on display.
Tanya Flores, a credential student responsible for archiving the history of La Raza, said that one of the goals of the event is to bring a small taste of Latinx culture to campus.
“Dia de los Muertos is about remembering our loved ones,” Flores said. “I think it’s just a way to bring traditions on campus and celebrate Latinx culture and get students to connect, because it’s very meaningful to a lot of people and they can come and gather up and celebrate together.”
The student association educated students on Latinx traditions while making the event fun and inviting for any newcomers. There was a constant buzz of excitement as people filed in and out of the room adorned in various cultural items such as folklorico dresses, candy skull faces and marigold crowns.
“I think people are having fun,” Flores said. “It’’s an event we have each year so people know that we have it and people are happy to help out and volunteer.”
For some students, the night was the first time they got to experience the holiday.
First year biology major Lynn Sun attended her first Dia de los Muertos celebration to watch her friend perform in the Folklorico dance which includes colorful dresses and fluid movements, but left the event with a greater understanding of Latinx traditions.
“It’s a good experience and the dances are really cool,” Sun said. “It really exposes you to the culture, I’ve never seen the [folklorico] dance before in person so I think it’s a really good experience to see the actual thing.”
Along with traditional performances, there were multiple artist vendors that offered original and homemade stickers, jewelry, clothing, paintings and ceramics. All of the art featured had ties to either Latinx influences or the holiday itself.
Cal State Long Beach alumnus and local artist Karla Camacho was one of the many artists selling her original art. Her table featured acrylic and watercolor paintings, prints and ceramic mugs with Mexican iconography such as Frida Khalo, cacti and Mexican treats.
“A lot of the different themes that my work touches upon are cultural themes,” Camacho said. “But also other things pertaining to my identity whether it is specifically depicting queer women, women of color or issues of immigration. So it’s a lot of different things that are kind of connected to my experiences.”
Camacho was a member and officer in La Raza for three years when she was a student. While she has attended the event for multiple years, she said the honoring of American Indian culture with the drum circle led by the American Indian Student Council was her favorite part of the night.
“You have…people sitting down and listening to the drumming and the singing, so it’s nice that people honor [American Indian culture,]” Camacho said. “Because [the university] was built on sacred burial ground and this is one of the few times in the year that we can all come together and honor that so that’s why I love this event.”
Fourth-year psychology and Chicano and Latino studies major Daniel Osuna attended the event for the third year in a row and echoed his fellow student’s thoughts on the value of the night.
“It’s really nice and it’s a great chance for me to come and experience the culture,” Osuna said. “I feel like every year that I come, I come with a more open mind to the actual culture itself. Every time I come with more knowledge as to what it is to celebrate this day and gain more knowledge about it.”
The event closed with a dancefloor and Spanish music for students to let loose and celebrate their loved ones.