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The Bittersweet Celebration

October 27, 2016

This article was written by Dylan Avnet

VPA’s Día de los Muertos event honors the famous Mexican holiday with cultural traditions, remembrance, and festivities

By Dylan Avnet

dia-de-los-muertosTuesday, November 1, is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, and Cal State Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) Visual and Public Art (VPA) department is hosting an event to celebrate the traditional Mexican holiday. Dionicio Mendoza, a VPA professor and lead organizer of activities for the event, describes the holiday as “a very special event. It’s a time to remember the people that have passed on in our families.”

The VPA department offers a class during fall semesters dedicated to Día de los Muertos, which Mendoza instructs. Mendoza says “the class is designed to not only teach students the historical aspect of this very special event, but also teach them the various workshops that compose the celebration.”

Among the workshops is creating sugar skulls. As Mendoza heads the sugar skull workshop, he speaks on the historical significance of using sugar to honor the dead: “In the Americas, we didn’t have sugar. Sugar was brought here because of the climate [which was ideal] for growing sugar. That’s when the slave trade started and they brought a lot of people from Africa. We know the history and how much they were abused and exploited to cultivate the sugar. The sugar skulls have this bittersweet history; it’s really kind of intense what happened from all the slavery. But they’re meant to also celebrate life.”

Student and faculty created sugar skulls will be on display during the VPA event, which will take in building 70 from 5-8pm. The event will be a celebration of life and death and will have Aztec dancers, face painting, music, pan dulce, and hot chocolate.

While Día de los Muertos is a time for remembrance, it is also a time for expression. Those who celebrate are able to create art and honor their ancestors in unique ways. For instance, altars are central to the tradition of honoring the dead. People can dress up and celebrate in ways no other day would allow. Mendoza says of the event, “somehow, that day allows people to just… be.”

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