The University Honors coffee forum was covered in vibrant colors Wednesday during the annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration.
Death is not seen as morbid in the typical Dia de Los Muertos tradition, but as a reason to celebrate life. This particular Dia de Los Muertos celebration came from humble beginnings in 2005.
Alumnae Michelle Sotolongo and Orquidea Morales arranged a small table in a corner of the University Honors coffee forum. They placed pictures of their deceased friends and family on the table, along with several toy skulls. Sotolongo said it caused honors students to raise eyebrows.
“It freaked people out,” Sotolongo said. “We were asked to take it down after a month, but we were so surprised it lasted that long.”
Enough students asked questions about the display that Sotolongo and Morales were asked to construct the display the following year.
Four years later, Sotolongo and Morales have graduated and passed on the tradition to Beatriz Gomez, international studies junior.
Gomez asked Rincón Hispano Universitario to get involved with Dia de Los Muertos.
“We wanted to bring a little bit more of the Mexican culture in,” Gomez said. “(With Rincón) we were able to encourage more people to come.”
Karina Gonzalez, mass communication sophomore, leads the student organization that promotes Hispanic culture around campus. The organization meets 7 p.m. Tuesdays in LBJ Student Center.
“Before I became involved in the organization I had no idea my family celebrated Dia de Los Muertos,” Gonzalez said.
Gomez said Wednesday’s celebration took two months’ preparation. The once small display has grown to include two ballet folklorico performances and a mariachi band.
The ceremony began at 6:30 p.m. with a short introduction by Sotolongo, who was visibly overwhelmed by the large crowd at the event.
Jaime Chahin, dean of the College of Applied Arts, followed Sotolongo. Chahin gave a speech detailing the beginnings of Dia de Los Muertos and described the different celebrations in Mexico.
“The holiday focus is to pray for friends and family who have died,” Chahin said. “The intent is to encourage visits of the souls.”
The crowd was encouraged to head in front of the Lampasas building after a short documentary for a performance by “Ballet Folklorico Bravo.” Rincón Hispano Universitario created the folklorico group. The local San Marcos folklorico group “Young Heart” performed as well.
The evening concluded with music provided by the mariachi band, “Mariachi Lince de Oro,” and refreshments.
“The important thing is to not let this part of the tradition die,” Sotolongo said. “We’re celebrating our loved ones, celebrating life and celebrating the lives of those we loved and lost.”
Rincón Hispano Universitario and The University Honors Program presented the event.