Last Wednesday’s nooner saw UCR’s celebration of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is an annual cultural holiday celebrated the first two days of November. Originating in Mexico, the holiday was created as a way to honor the dead by celebrating the lives of the deceased. They’re celebrated with food, drink, parties and activities the dead enjoyed in life.
The event was hosted by Chicano Student Programs, whose office is also a resource center on campus that promotes cultural identity and development. They’re able to accomplish this through different resources and programs on and off campus for their students. “When someone walks into our office we hope that they can step in and feel like home and that they belong on this campus and that their identity and celebrations are valid,” said program coordinator Arlene M. Cano.
With the support of the passing of the Highlander Empowerment Referendum, the Dia de los Muertos event was a success. “All of our events mostly on our table right now are co-sponsored by the Highlander Empowerment Referendum. More students can take advantage of the services,” explained Cano.
The skeleton of Dia de los Muertos is known as La Catrina, or “the lady in the hat.” Unlike the skeletons of Halloween, her appearance consisted of an elegant and brightly-colored dress. She is not meant to inspire terror, but rather to lightly mock death in the celebration of life.
The nooner began with a celebratory dance from several members of Chicano Student Programs. Dressed in skeletal garbs that represented the festive aspect of the holiday, the members formed a line and danced around the Bell Tower for a few minutes to the beat of percussion instruments. Attendees were also encouraged to contribute to the community altar that was placed near the Bell Tower. Those who celebrated Dia de los Muertos placed pan dulce, figurines, candles and photographs on the altar.
There were also a few more activities that went on throughout the nooner, like a face painting booth and a table for making sugar skulls. Students throughout campus lined up at the booths and dozens had their faces painted with a skeletal mask to celebrate the occasion.
“We try to include very cultural elements to make sure that we’re celebrating the intent of the celebration,” explained Cano. “We try to have a really good balance such as music, food, student organization participation … it really is a good balance of having the celebrations but honoring the past and honoring our ancestors.”
The nooner concert was performed by Latin pop band Sin Color. Hailing from Los Angeles, they’re a unique band that’s known for mixing different genres like bossa nova, cumbia, disco and indie pop. The lead singer Crisia Regalado’s voice was incredibly operatic and spanned multiple octaves. At one point she lightly scolded the crowd for not dancing in the hot sun. Altogether, this created an energetic and joyous sound fitting for a festival, an atmosphere the band definitely created at UCR.