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ND celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Sarah Barrett | Thursday, November 4, 2004

Over the past three days, many Latin Americans joined together in honoring their friends and family members that have passed away, but have not yet been forgotten.

The fourth annual Dia de los Muertos remembrance took place Tuesday at the Snite Museum.

Calixto Robles, an artist from Oaxaca, Mexico spoke at the memorial celebration, explaining the intricacy with which he designed a traditional sand painting.

“I used turquoise and blue to represent the universe in the background, the customary skull, as well as a purple and black outline which traditionally represent death,” Robles said.

Robles dedicated his sand painting to Alvarez Bravo, the foremost photographer in the history of Latin America who died two years ago, and placed it below the ofrenda (alter of offering) laden with fruit, loaves of bread, chocolate, skeletons and ornaments.

Many gathered in the basement of the Snite to witness Robles’ speech, a slideshow of Bravo’s famous photographs and two traditional Mexican dances.

“We are performing two dances which originated in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Veracruz. They are called ‘les annas, les annas’ and ‘golas,'” Notre Dame junior and dancer April Garcia said.

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated all over Mexico and in some of Latin America, Robles said.

“There is praise, singing and food all night long until six in the morning when the sand painting is destroyed into four parts and everyone at the ceremony is given a basket of the sand,” Robles said. “Everyone goes to mass, where the basket of sand is blessed by the priest, and then go to the cemetery where the sand is thrown onto the grave of the person who has just died. This is the last tribute to that person.”

When the dancers finished, a buffet of Mexican treats was served, and the crowd exited past a cross of marigolds and white candles. Curator of education and public programs Jackie Welsh said the cross is highly significant.

“Marigolds, or cempazucha flowers, are thought to represent the sun and because of their strong scent, these are also dropped in a path from the cemetery to the doorstep to help lead the way home.” Welsh said. “The candles are also there so that the spirit of the person being remembered can find its way home.”

On Sunday afternoon there was a procession and a mass at St. Edward’s Hall Chapel honoring this special holiday.

“There was also a woodcarver who came to South Bend with some of his wooden skeleton carvings two weeks ago and a folk art workshop which took place [at the Snite Museum] last week. We made skeleton puppets, skull masks, and necklaces,” Welsh recalled.

This celebration, despite coinciding with the election, was a success, according to organizers.

Campus ministry also plans to hold a popular Christmas celebration, called Las Posadas, on Friday, Dec. 3 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. to commemorate the journey to Bethlehem.