Paper marigolds were carefully folded, representing the strongly scented flowers that will guide ancestors home. Sheets printed with sugar skull designs were colored in place of the sweet decorations that traditionally represent departed souls. Sweet breads adorned with sesame seeds or sugar were shared among the group. The bread was set out for spirits arriving weary from travel arrive for Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration.
The Spanish Heritage Language Program celebrated Day of the Dead at the Erb Memorial Union Monday afternoon. The University of Oregon community was invited to participate in crafting paper marigolds, coloring in sugar skulls designs printed on paper, and enjoy the sweet pan de muertos, or “bread of the dead,” traditionally made for the holiday.
The Day of the Dead celebration, “comes from the Latin American tradition of honoring your dead,” Sergio Loza, SHL Program director, said. “In my family, Day of the Dead means going to where your loved ones are buried and cleaning up their graves.”
Loza was born in the United States. His mother came to the country undocumented. “When I was born she could never take me back to Mexico to meet my grandma, so I never met my grand,” Loza said. He said the Pixar movie “Coco” was a powerful reminder of the emotional connection he has with his grandmother and the holiday.
After the EMU festivities, the paper marigolds and sugar skulls will be moved to Friendly hall and added to an ofrenda, the traditional altar made for the holiday. Students, faculty and staff can contribute photos and other mementos representing departed loved ones to the altar.
“We’re trying to connect with not only the student Latino community but also the broader community to create cultural connections and also bring awareness to our Spanish Heritage Language program,” Loza said.