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Students design Day of the Dead altars for celebration

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The Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry will host a free celebration for Day of the Dead on Thursday with a presentation by Latino author Luis Urrea.

Urrea is a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame and will join in the celebration with the public and UA students who have designed their own Day of the Dead altars.

The altars, which are traditional representations of the deceased, will be displayed at the UofA Bookstore through Nov. 3. Many people have a picture of whoever they are honoring in the altar, and typically place the loved one’s favorite dish out for them as an offering, Mexican-American studies and psychology senior Bettina Trujillo said.

“This day is culturally something that happens for any Hispanic,” Trujillo said. “It’s important because it’s not your typical ‘we dress up’ kind of thing. There is a huge misconception about the Mexican Day of the Dead. It is about celebrating the lives of our loved ones that we lost.”

The event will begin at 4 p.m. and will include performances by Grupo Folklórico Miztontli and Las Aguilitas de Davis Mariachis. Trujillo is a member of Grupo Folklórico Miztontli. The group will be performing two dances at the event.

The mariachis and dancers will lead the audience to the Student Union Memorial Center’s Grand Ballroom at 5 p.m., where Urrea will give a reading, followed by a book signing, said Kathryn Ortiz, the event’s coordinator. Day of the Dead is a way to honor deceased loved ones and has been celebrated in Mexico for more than 3,000 years.

“Because I was raised Catholic and because I am a Mexican-American, my own personal experience has to do with being a cultural Catholic,” Ortiz said. “This means we are not afraid of death and we don’t think about death the way other people do. It is important because it is part of the life cycle. We celebrate our deceased loved ones on Day of the Dead.”

Along with UofA Bookstores, this event is co-sponsored by Asian Pacific American Student Affairs, Mexican American Studies, the Binational Migration Institute, Mexican Institute, Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs and the Department of English.

“We took advantage of the work that the bookstore has done before,” said Javier Duran, director of the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry. “We know that they traditionally did this with students building altars. Also, the idea of having an author at a bookstore shows a concrete connection between students and the Day of the Dead.”

This is the first time that the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry has celebrated Day of the Dead as a larger campus event, Duran said.

“It encompasses tradition on one hand,” he added. “My family is from Mexico so on one hand it is a very respectful holiday and sometimes somber. Throughout the years, I have learned that there is a way to celebrate and be positive and not necessarily sad during this time.”


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