The event took place in the Latino Resource Center on Garden Road.
“At the university that I used to attend, we made El Día de los Muertos a big event,” said organizer Rey Irizarry, who wanted to bring all of the campus Latino organizations together. “They sat up one big altar in a general area where all the school could appreciate and learn what El Día de los Muertos is.”
Movimiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlan (MECHA) opened the event with an explanation of what El Día de los Muertos entails. Members of each organization then spoke of what their altar represented.
DREAM Action NIU closed the night with a moment of silent for all their lost relatives. A very present feeling of grief and respect toward all the ancestors hung in the air during the emotional candlelight ceremony.
El Día de los Muertos is mostly a Mexican tradition during which people remember and celebrate their dead loved ones. This celebration now extends all through Central America and part of South America.
It is a way for Latinos to “not fear death but accept it as part of life,” said Vanessa Segundo, assistant director for Programming and Communication at the NIU Honors Program, “like undocumented students at NIU have to accept their struggles and overcome them.”
Celebrants camp at cemeteries from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, bringing music and food. They create altars that incorporate the four elements – water, air, fire and earth – through things that their loved ones would have liked.
NIU’s celebration offered a learning experience for everyone who participated, giving American Latinos (and even non-Latinos) the chance to appreciate a heritage that many people lose when they settle in the United States; President Doug Baker told students that he wants the altars to move next year to a different part of campus where all student and faculty members can acknowledge them.
“As American Latinos we can’t forget what our ancestors had to go through for us,” said Ivonne, an Ecuadorian student at NIU. “This is a great way to honor our ancestors as we do have them in us through our blood and features.”
by Christian Villalobos