Day of the Dead history and celebration brings students of different cultures together

A Day of the Dead celebration invited students to join in traditional activities Thursday in the Drinko Library atrium.

The event, which was a collaboration between Marshall University’s Intercultural Hispanic Organization and MUReads, offered a look at traditions included in El Día de los Muertos, a holiday native to Latin American countries, which allows citizens to remember those who have passed away.

“The best part about the Day of the Dead is it doesn’t discriminate,” Connor Kidder, a Marshall graduate student and member of the Intercultural Hispanic Organization, said. “Anyone who has passed is able to be remembered. Latin America is heavily rooted in Catholicism, which is usually strict, but the beauty is no matter what your gender, sexuality or race, you will get remembered.”

In addition to celebrating the cultural event, Kidder said he wanted to share much of the holiday’s history with attendees.

“[The event] is to not only educate people at Marshall about Day of the Dead, but also to invite them to join in the celebration,” Kidder said. “It’s more than just a celebration, it has a deep-rooted history that dates back 2000 years ago, and the day brings awareness to how other cultures view loss.”

Traditional decorations were placed in the atrium, and a variety of Hispanic items connected to the event, such as an alter and offerings, were featured for students to observe.

“This year we’ve tweaked a few things by getting more authentic items to show off,” leeann Hesson, a member of MUReads, said. “We really wanted to bring more sense of home here for Hispanic students.”

Last year, MUReads sponsored an event celebrating Day of the Dead with a similar set up to this year’s celebration. Hesson said the organization decided to reach out and collaborate with the Intercultural Hispanic Organization to have more fusion between the two groups who share an interest in the holiday.

“Our event was really successful, but this year we wanted to partner with the students to get more of them involved and to give them an event that celebrates their history and their heritage,” Hesson said.

While a large aspect of the event was focused on informing American citizens of the traditions included in the holiday, Kidder said he also wanted to provide an opportunity to promote Hispanic inclusion on campus.

“The United States’ culture is a completely different ball game for other countries,” Kidder said. “When Marshall gives these students the platform to promote their culture, they’re able to feel home, which gives them a sense of belonging.”

Although the Day of the Dead is not a traditional American holiday, Kidder said American citizens could potentially learn something from the event which they could apply to their own communities.

“Our country is in a dark period right now. Not in just a political or economic aspect but also in a cultural aspect,” Kidder said. “I think we as a country could really gain from this event because during the Day of the Dead everyone gets mentioned. The United States should be more representative of every life and existence because every life matters.”

In the future, Hesson said she would like to see more events featuring multiculturism on campus to promote inclusivity at Marshall.

“[These events] kind of go back to what I love about books; you can see a reflection of yourself,” Hesson said. “This gives you the chance to step into someone’s shoes.”

Joelle Gates can be contacted at [email protected].