Day of the Dead celebration educates the living

Metro senior Megan Funk, left, paints Chicano Studies Renee Fajardo's face for the Dia de los Muertos celebration at Cajetan's Event Center on Auraria Campus on Thursday, November 1, 2012. Photo by Jessica Cuneo

Story by Collene Lewis

Fueled by traditional prayers and tamales, attendees celebrated life at Dia de los Muertos: Wisdom Passed.

The stained glass windows and paper mache flowers on every table created a rainbow of color during Dia de los Muertos: Wisdom Passed Nov. 1 at St. Cajetan’s. With the help of mariachi band Azul Tequila and sugar skull-inspired face painting, the event had a vibrant feel.

The energy in the room was reflected in the introduction to the ceremony, as Desirae Sarabia, from MSU Denver’s Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, asked that attendees to let go of worries and attachment to lost loved ones. Students should instead explore their passions and share their wisdom with others, Sarabia said.

“It is not to be sorrowful or sad,” Sarabia said. “But there is reason to be thankful in people we surround ourselves with.”

Attendees engaged with one another and were encouraged to join in traditional prayers and blessings for the dead. Clouds of incense rose in puffs and many hands were held up to the ceiling as those present celebrated this traditional Mexican holiday.

Lucero Juarez performs with her mariachi band Azul Tequila at Cajetan’s Event Center during the Dia de los Muertos celebration on Auraria Campus on Thursday, November 1, 2012. Photo by Jessica Cuneo

Carolina Arellano, an education major at MSU Denver, said she enjoyed how traditions blended together at the event. Arellano has attended many Dia de los Muertos celebrations before, but said she enjoyed MSU Denver’s celebration and felt that the mariachi band was a nice touch.

“This is a tradition that will continue from generation to generation,” Arellano said.

The activities at Dia de los Muertos: Wisdom Passed were not limited to prayers and blessings, as attendees were served pan de muerto (bread of the dead), tamales and aguas frescas.

Curiosity brought one visitor to the celebration. Kyle Konishi, an undeclared major at MSU Denver, wanted to gain more knowledge on how the holiday is typically celebrated. Attending the event gave more insight into Hispanic culture, Konishi said.

“You can try to see the world from someone else’s perspective,” he said.

Other attendees found a new respect for the holiday. MSU Denver student Pat Clark, 70, said the event was significant not only because it was her first Dia de los Muertos celebration, but also because it honored death. Clark said instead of recognizing death, American culture ‘stuffs it away’ with phrases like ‘time heals all wounds.’ She likes the way the holiday brings death out into the open.
“They face it and embrace it,” Clark said.

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