UT professors, students celebrate Día de los Muertos

Adriana Rezal

The Latinx Students and Scholars Network hosted a Día de los Muertos celebration Wednesday to bring students and faculty together for the traditional Mexican holiday.

Launched last year, the network consists of eight UT social work professors who organize networking opportunities for students. Psychiatry assisstant professor Mercedes Hernandez said the Día de los Muertos celebration was the organization’s first event of the year.

“It’s meant to bring Latinx students and students who are in support of Latinx issues together and give them an opportunity to receive support and network with other students as well as professors (and) researchers who are doing work related to Latinx issues,” Hernandez said.

At the event, professors and students shared personal experiences of the Mexican holiday, exchanged business cards and decorated sugar skulls. Frances Ibarra, social work graduate student, said the event helped bring Latinx students and faculty together with a holiday they could all relate to.

“There’s not a lot of opportunities to meet with a lot of Latino professors or other faculty members sometimes, and I think it would be a good opportunity to meet someone you can identify with,” Ibarra said.

Esther Calzada, social work associate professor, said the event created a sense of community that allowed students and faculty to build relationships without the pressures of a classroom setting.

“A lot of times, we limit our interactions between students and faculty to classes, which don’t necessarily provide a lot of opportunities for more informal interactions,” Calzada said. ”This creates a nice, relaxed, informal environment where everybody can feel free to get to know each other and to chat.” 

The sugar skulls could be placed on a Día de los Muertos altar organized by student affairs administrator Ramón Gómez. It is on display in the School of Social Work building. 

Aaron Escajeda, public affairs and social work graduate student, said the altar tradition commemorates those who have passed away and invited students and faculty to place their own photos of loved ones. This year’s altar also honors the 11 victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.

“We just wanted to have everyone see the culture and the diversity the school has to offer,” Escoja said. “Many faculty, staff and students have brought pictures of their loved ones, so we want to involve (as many people) as we can.”