Students honor the dead for Dia de los Muertos

By Juniper Oxford, Staff Reporter

 Hispanic and Latino organizations co-hosted the Day of the Dead on Nov 1. to affirm their culture and pass down the traditions of the holiday. 

Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated anywhere from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2  but is most commonly celebrated on Nov. 1. 

This year, the Hispanic/Latino Resource Center, SIU Multicultural Greek Council, the Hispanic Student Council and the Latino Cultural Association co-sponsored the event.


Cristina Castillo, Hispanic/Latino Resource Center Coordinator, said people in the United States did not celebrate the Day of the Dead until the 70’s, and the Hispanic Latino community needed a sense of belonging. 

“We were eager and wanting to know what is our sense of belonging here,” Castillo said. “We are not just here because of our parents and grandparents. We are all connected in some way.” 

Family, togetherness, honor, life and death were all mentioned during the celebration as important to Day of the Dead and those who celebrate it. 

“When we talk about the Day of the Dead, it is not just a mourning, it is a celebration,” Castillo said.

The Day of the Dead is a time to honor the dead, to celebrate life, and to spend time with family and friends. 

The Day of the Dead is often mistaken to be like Halloween. The two celebrations, while close in proximity with one another, do not have much in common. While Halloween focuses on tricks, horror and mischief, The Day of the Dead is more of a positive, brightly colored and themed day meant to honor and remember dead loved ones. 

Lambda Theta Phi is a Latino fraternity on SIU’s campus and helped co-host the event, set up the ofrenda which is also known as an altar and helped with face paint for those celebrating.  


Tomas Cortez, a junior studying Cinema and Photography, said his disposition toward the Day of the Dead had changed over time. He said that the recent passing of close relatives brought him closer to the celebration. 

“I have gained more of a love for it,” Cortez said. “For me, the Day of the Dead is remembering all of the good we have here in our lives as opposed to being worried about what we will lose.” 

Symbolism is shown throughout the Day of the Dead. The decor used symbolizes different aspects of the celebration. 

Castillo said the altar is filled with meaning. 

“The ofrenda has several levels and each level means something different,” Castillo said. “The arch means the entrance, back and forth, for these celebrations” 

Another common symbol used in Day of the Dead celebrations is the marigold. “The marigold, in Mexico, is the flower of the dead,” Castillo said. 

Castillo said it is vital for the community to take ownership of the traditions handed down from generation to generation. It is with this ownership that the community can begin to teach others about traditions such as Day of the Dead. 

“Affirmation of your culture is not just affirmation, but pride,” Castillo said. “When we take ownership, we can teach others what we do.”

Staff reporter Juniper Oxford can be reached at jox[email protected] or followed on Twitter at @JuniperOxford.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.