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‘Instead We Celebrate’: The Latinx Resource Center and MEChA Host Día de los Difuntos Celebration

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UCI’s Latinx Resource Center and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (MEChA) hosted Día de los Difuntos or the Day of the Dead cultural celebration on Nov. 1.

The event looked to bring the celebration and beauty of a cultural tradition to UCI, with a variety of vendors, musical performances, foods and activities. Students had the opportunity to get to know a few of the Latinx student organizations and resources available on campus, while also coming together to honor and celebrate those they have lost. 

UCI professor and department chair of Chicano/Latino studies Belinda Campos, began the event by thanking the event organizers, participants and attendees for coming together to bring the event to its maximum potential and highlighting the importance of a cultural celebration of this magnitude.

“What you might not know is that I, too, was a UC student. I attended UC Santa Barbara as an undergraduate many, many years ago and at that time, it would have been really difficult to think of a celebration like this taking part on any of the UC campuses,” Campos said.

Following Campos’ words and the event’s land acknowledgement, a mariachi band performed a selection of songs as more attendees began to arrive and visit the booths selling chicharrones, agua frescas, churros and cultural pieces. 

A third-year psychological sciences student and co-president of the Latinx Student Psychological Association (LSPA) Camila Ferrel was one of the vendors present at the event. Despite the responsibilities that come with running a booth, Ferrel expressed excitement about the collaboration and the sense of community that the celebration would bring.

“I think for [LSPA], we always kind of seek connections with people. Our sense of community, or in Spanish ‘comunidad,’ [is] very important because we hear a lot from general members that that is one of the things that keeps them coming to our meetings and events, so we really try to enrich that aspect of ourselves,” Ferrel said. 

For many Latinx students, having a community to connect with was one of the main aspects of the event that they looked forward to. Many students saw the event as a way to celebrate the holiday without being at home with family. 

A fourth-year criminology and psychological sciences student Evelyn Delgado discussed how it felt to celebrate a tradition that she has done with her family for years with peers.

“Dia de los Muertos has a special place in my heart because it is a cultural celebration that me and my family celebrate. We set up an ‘ofrenda’ back home and we just put up pictures of our loved ones, mostly grandparents and uncles that passed away,” Delgado said. “We put pan de muerto as a food offering and we also put marigolds, which are also known as ‘cempasúchil,’ [as a] passage [for our loved ones].”

Ballet Folklorico de UCI, a student-run organization that specializes in traditional Mexican dance, performed at the event. The group performed dances from seven different regions of Mexico as the event came to a close. 

Attendees were able to stay following the performances to visit the remaining vendors and socialize.

A third-year earth system sciences student Nataly Pineda discussed how it felt to gather with others and celebrate loved ones at a community gathering.

“I think it’s just celebrating life and remembering our loved ones — remembering that we are connected in some way or another … This year I [had] to do it away from home, but this event helped me do it with my UCI family,” Pineda said.

Makyla McLeod is a Campus News Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at msmcleod@uci.edu.