ODI, CLA, Art Education Department partner up for Día de los Muertos celebrations

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

While October is coming to a close and November is approaching, many people in the United States are preparing for Halloween. Susana Pelayo-Woodward, UMD’s director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, is preparing for a different kind of celebration, called the Day of the Dead or “Dia de los Muertos.”

Pelayo-Woodward said that Day of the Dead is a tradition that links back to the Aztec civilization. It’s a day where one remembers loved ones who have passed away, and that they are still with them even though they are gone.

“I think for some people it may seem strange, but it’s just a way of how we in different cultures view the cycle of life,” Pelayo-Woodward said.

On Oct. 23, Pelayo-Woodward will have finished setting up an exhibit of different altars in honor of Dia de los Muertos that will be set up in the Multicultural Center (MC). Pelayo-Woodward is originally from Mexico City and has been celebrating this holiday since she was little

“I grew up knowing that it was that time to remember my grandparents, and we’d have an altar with their pictures, especially my grandfather since he was the one that passed first,” Pelayo-Woodward said. “We’d have the foods and drinks that he liked. In a way, it was meaningful to remember your loved ones, but it was also remembering that it’s a part of the cycle of life.”

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

Every year since the 1990s, Pelayo-Woodward has partnered with the art education department to include art students in teaching others about Dia de los Muertos. Students will help work on altars that will be put up in the MC as well and make a lesson plan for children to learn about the celebration.

On Oct. 31, two groups of children will come to the Multicultural Center to learn about the celebration, Pelayo-Woodward said. The children will look at the altars and then art students will do a lesson on what the meaning of the celebration is. Finally, the children get to do paper flowers and puppets.

“It’s a whole day with the children,” Pelayo-Woodward said.

Maria Vazquez, a first year accounting major, was born in Minnesota by her Mexican parents, but spent five years in Mexico from first grade to fifth grade.

“Kids go from house to house to sing different chants in front of the altars,” Vazquez said. “After that families give the kids fruit or bread and Mexican treats. I remember dressing up with my cousins and my grandma setting up and making food. Everyone in the town knows each other, it’s almost like family.”

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

Photo by Susana Pelayo-Woodward

Vazquez said that thinking about loved ones is an important and meaningful part of the celebration.

“If anyone has a chance to, they should definitely celebrate this,” Vazquez said. “Make sure to remember and honor everyone you have lost, not just go on and get candy.”

The exhibit in the Multicultural Center will be up from Oct. 23 to Nov. 5. Also on Oct. 23, the UMD Communication Department will host professor Alberto Gonzalez of Bowling Green State, who will focus his speech on how activism and art surrounding Dia de los Muertos has affected change in the community. The event will take place in the Rafters at 12 p.m.

CultureIdun Rasmussen