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The Day of the Dead, a Latino tradition honoring ancestors

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As the American holiday of Halloween comes to an end and the midnight bell tolls, The Day of the Dead, or Día de Los Muertos in Spanish, begins in Central and Southern Mexico.

According to Jasmine Torres-Gonzalez, senior criminal justice major, it is believed that once the clock hits midnight during the evening of Oct. 31, the gates of heaven open and the spirits of the dead are let out to visit their families.

Latino towns gather together on this day for hours of festivities and feasting to honor loved ones passed. An alter serves as the center of the celebration space for individuals to place pictures, food, gifts and sugar skulls as a representation of their loved ones that have passed.

“Back where my mom is from, they will get together at a basketball court outside. They place an altar there that is covered with pictures and food, and it is just a big festivity,” said Torres-Gonzalez.

All of this is done in hopes it pleases the spirits. If the spirits are pleased, it is said that the individuals who honor them are watched over and brought good luck throughout the year.

Once the day comes to an end and Nov. 2 arrives, it is said that the spirits return to their place in heaven to wait until the next celebration.

The holiday is typically seen as a one day event. However, some individuals use two days to celebrate and honor the ones they love. On Nov. 2, some will visit the graves of those that have passed to thank them for spending time with them.

A few days prior to holiday, students were invited to come to the Diversity Center to decorate their own sugar skull, which are made and put on display in Latino culture in order to honor the dead. This newfound tradition on campus started four years ago with help from Torres-Gonzalez.

Traditionally, each skull is decorated in a unique way to represent the personality of the individual being honored. Props, colors, and other objects are used to decorate the skulls. If it is representing a child, the skull is generally very colorful and may have a toy accompanying it on the altar. If it is an adult, the skull will typically be a darker color with an object that represents the person, such as a shot of liquor or sombrero.

The sugar skulls created by students, along with information about the Day of the Dead, pictures, and food, were on display at the Haunted Library this past Friday, Oct. 25.

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