by Maddy Dillon, staff writer
Warren Wilson’s Herman@s Orgullos@s en Las Americas (WHOLA) facilitated a Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, celebration on Tuesday, Nov 1, in Canon Lounge. While the holiday is celebrated differently in many cultures, the most common theme is remembering the lives of dead loved ones.
“Instead of being sad [when remembering the dead], we are happy to celebrate their life,” WHOLA member and senior Carlos Lara said.
Students decorated altars for family and friends who have passed with pictures, paper flowers, and food. According to Lara, the food and gifts on the altars become offerings to the spirits of their dead family and friends. WHOLA shared many treats with the group including horchata, a cinnamon rice milk; corn; pan dulce, which translates to “sweet bread;” and surprisingly, peanuts, which sophomore Andrew Marchev remembers from his Dia de los Muertos celebrations growing up in Mexico.
“I really liked looking at the different altars; they are so creative,” junior Hannah Monroe said.
About 20 students attended the celebration, some taking part in the holiday for the first time. After indulging in treats, students gathered in front of the altars to share experiences and remember those who have passed. Many WHOLA members who grew up in Latin America reflected on going to graveyards and eating meals with their family to celebrate the lives of their dead loved ones.
“My family stopped celebrating after they moved to here to the U.S. [from Mexico],” WHOLA member and senior Ana Baranda said.
Unfortunately, Baranda’s family felt like they needed to sacrifice some of their culture in order to assimilate. Baranda, though, started celebrating Dia de los Muertos after her uncle passed away a couple of years ago.
Other students shared informal experiences of celebrating Day of the Dead in high school or more formal experiences growing up in the Catholic church. Overall, students appreciated learning about each other’s cultures and backgrounds.
“I really enjoy hearing about similarities between cultures. [Andrew’s] experiences spinning peanuts reminded me of spinning the dreidel in Judaism,” freshman Michael Kligerman said.
Last year’s Day of the Dead was actually the catalyst for forming WHOLA. Lara, from Guatemala, noticed a poster in Gladfelter referring to Day of the Dead as a Mexican tradition. He was upset to see the holiday celebrated throughout Latin America classified as exclusively “Mexican.”
Lara congregated with a group of students from Latin America and started WHOLA, Wilson’s Herman@s Orgullos@s en Las Americas (Proud Brothers & Sisters of the Americas), using the @ sign to remain gender neutral, to promote cultural relativism by addressing the diversity of the Latino community at large.
Anyone who is interested may attend WHOLA meetings on Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m. in the Multicultural Room in the basement of Schafer A. WHOLA has upcoming plans to host a Latin Dance party in one of the residence halls.