'Day of the Dead' event alive with crafts and culture

Geneseo students gathered eagerly in the MacVittie Student Union lobby last Saturday to celebrate "El Dia de los Muertos."

The Late Knight event, organized by both the Latino Student Association and the Geneseo Anthropological Association, was instituted three years ago by former chair of anthropology department, Ellen Kintz.

Although the event had a decent turnout, senior and GAA representative Patrick Geraghty said that numbers were low, especially compared with last year's 300 attendees.

El Dia de los Muertos, Spanish for "day of the dead," is a holiday mainly celebrated in Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2, correlating with the Catholic holy days All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

During the celebration, several traditions commemorate those who have died. Altars known as "ofrendas" display pictures of loved ones and offer items including the four elements, fire, earth, wind and water, to the dead after their long journey to the living world.

Imitation altars were set up in the Union and served as visual examples of what a more elaborate altar might look like.

LSA Public Relations representative and sophomore Dionicia Torres added that skulls and skeletons are major symbols used in this holiday.

Sugar skulls are traditionally made from a sugar powder and water concoction with the names of loved ones written on top of the finished head. Those attending the event were able to make sugar skulls of their own.

"I took Spanish class in high school and learned about the day of the dead and always thought it would be cool to make my very own sugar skeleton," said freshman Angie Klinczar.

Other crafts included painting maracas and using colored tissue paper to create marigolds, flowers said to have the power to lure spirits during El Dia de los Muertos.

"El pan de los muertos," loaves of bread often shaped like people and topped with pink sugar, is consumed by the living and offered to the dead during traditional festivities. Though this particular treat was not available at the union, CAS provided participants with drinks, nachos and salsa.

Geraghty noted that the goal of the event was to expose the Geneseo community to customs, traditions and perceptions that may differ from their own. He also said that Americans often perceive death as a concept of permanence, while El Dia de los Muertos offers a different perspective.

"When someone dies, our culture associates such an event with great sadness in which funerals are held to address our final goodbyes," he said. "Dia de los muertos treats the dead as if they are still alive."