A photograph of Genesis Palos’ abuelo, her grandfather, sits on a table surrounded by conchas, a Mexican sweet bread, one of his work shirts and a rosary. Palos created her own altar in her dorm with these items to celebrate her grandfather’s life.
Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2. Families set up ofrendas, or altars with offerings, every year, decorating them with food and photos of loved ones who have passed away. Visiting gravesites, festivals and parades are also common traditions.
While there wasn’t a parade in the streets of Austin this year, students are finding safe ways to celebrate the day while continuing to honor the lives of those who have passed.
For Palos, this will be the first time she celebrates the holiday away from her family in Plano, TX.
“When I moved out, I realized how important family is and how much I do miss my family,” psychology freshman Palos said.
Growing up, Palos spent her Día de los Muertos watching television specials, attending mass and decorating her grandfather’s burial site with items he loved during his lifetime. She said the holiday is a day for her to remember her grandfather.
“My abuelito would always eat conchas, so we would bring him some for his (offering),” Palos said.
This year she plans on going to a Catholic church service near campus to pray and reflect. Back home in Plano, her family will also be attending mass.
“It makes me think of him in a happy way instead of how he passed away,” Palos said.
The Latino Studies department celebrated the day with a Día de los Muertos themed episode on their LatinXperts podcast Oct. 15. On the podcast, Rachel González-Martin, associate professor of Latina/o and Mexican American studies, gives an in-depth history of Día de los Muertos and how it is celebrated.
González-Martin said individuals should continue with their traditions safely and use social media to share their altars and offerings with others.
González-Martin, who has celebrated Día de los Muertos since she was a child, said it is important to create a community that can remember those who have passed.
“If you want to speak to your grandmother again, or if you want to communicate with your antepasados (ancestors) and that is a need you feel you have, that’s a small candle, that’s a picture, that’s some flowers, that’s a glass of water. It doesn’t have to be grand,” González-Martin said.
Last year, the Latinx Theatre Initiative set up a community ofrenda in the F.L. Winship Drama Building. Students left photos and offerings like food and flowers in remembrance of their loved ones.
This year, the initiative made the ofrenda digital on their Instagram. Students submitted photos of loved ones that were edited into a cartoon ofrenda. The organization also posted a digital information guide that includes the cultural history of Día de los Muertos, along with various traditions and recipes.
The social media coordinator for the initiative, Manuela Guerra, said they want to emphasize the importance of sharing Latinx cultures with those willing to participate.
“In such a period of grief with such negative things going on, this is actually the perfect moment to keep this going and keep these traditions alive,” theater and journalism senior Guerra said.