Dia de los Muertos: Student society brings Mexican tradition to life


Jen Hao Wong/Iowa State Daily

Decorations are created by the Latino students for Dia de los Muertos. Dia de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, focuses on gatherings of family and friends to remember and also pray for the people they love that have died. 

Logan Olson

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a festival across the world that celebrates the lives of loved ones and families.

The Mexican-American Young Achievers Society has had an event in honor of the holiday for the past four years. 

MAYAS is in charge of several other events throughout Latino Heritage Month and does several fundraisers throughout the year along with Noche Mexicana in the spring.

”We hope to spread the Mexican culture and inform the students of Iowa State about this celebration,” said Kevin Alvarez, freshman in construction engineering and vice president of MAYAS. 

Alvarez said the celebration dates back more than 500 years and is still celebrated today.

“The main belief of this celebration is that life is a cycle and that there is not an end between life and death but just a continuation,” Alvarez said. “There is also a belief that we are only in state of sleep during life but are awakened at death.”

The beliefs were explained in further detail by speakers at the event, and a traditional altar was displayed. Among the traditional displays were marigolds, candies, candles, fruits and other favorites of the person that was represented.

There was also an opportunity to paint sugar skulls which was something that Celize Christy, junior in animal science, was most excited about.

“They are one of the most fun things to decorate because they are the most recognized,” Christy said. “I think it is nice to decorate the sugar skull with different colors and just the way you want it.”

Christy heard about this event through friends in MAYAS. She came to support those friends and also get a better cultural understanding of the day.

“Halloween is just one of those days that is really Americanized, but there are other countries that celebrate this day in different ways and for different reasons,” Christy said. 

Jessica Maciel-Hernandez, senior in microbiology, also came to the event to support friends in MAYAS and to help out with face painting.

“There is a lot of creativity that comes with face painting,” Maciel-Hernandez said. “There is no design, so no face is the same.”

Maciel-Hernandez said she hopes that this event will bring awareness to this celebration, clear up any misconceptions that come along with this holiday and also give a better understanding that this is a family event.

“It’s a day of remembrance for family members who have past, through the foods that they ate or music that they liked to listen to. Instead of a celebration of death, it’s a celebration of their life,” Maciel-Hernandez said.