Hispanic community remembers loved ones with Day of the Dead

Patrick Breheny

Hispanic members of the ISU community honored their ancestors and those who have died with a Hispanic holiday Wednesday.

Students, faculty and staff celebrated the Day of the Dead at the Border Crossing sculpture south of LeBaron Hall. The Day of the Dead is a holiday that commemorates the dead, especially family members and friends. It originated in Mexico but has spread throughout Latin America, said Jerry Garcia, assistant professor of history.

The festival began with the serving of Pan de los Muertos, or the Bread of the Dead. The bread was formed in the shape of a skeleton and was served throughout the ceremony, which also featured speakers and Mexican music.

Matthew Delay, Brunnier Art Museum curator, spoke to the audience about the importance of the Border Crossing sculpture by internationally renowned artist Luis Jimenez. The sculpture commemorates a Mexican family’s immigration to the United States.

“The sculpture is a dedication to his own father, who came to America in the 1920s,” Delay said.

Garcia also spoke at the ceremony about the unique quality of American culture.

“[America’s] culture has come from immigrants, which is why it’s very appropriate to have the ceremony here in front of this statue, made by a child of Mexican immigration,” he said.

Garcia urged interest and tolerance of other cultures.

“Look at Kosovo, East Timor, places like that, and be thankful to live in our country, a unique place to see so many languages and cultures living in relative peace and harmony,” he said.

After Delay and Garcia’s speeches, several audience members spoke about their personal involvement with the holiday. Many stressed how death is more accepted as a part of life in Mexico and is celebrated and even joked about.

Ed Munoz, assistant professor of sociology and Latino studies, described his own family’s immigration to the United States and how his and other families celebrated the Day of the Dead.

“Wherever they were, in Texas or Illinois or wherever, they were getting together to celebrate life, even though it was death that had brought them together,” he said.

After the speakers finished, the ceremony proceeded to the Memorial Union, where an altar had been set up to commemorate the dead.

Lindsay Palmer, sophomore in Spanish, said she found the event very informative.

“I saw a lot of people walking by who just stopped to listen in,” she said. “I hope they learned something about the culture.”

The threat of rain did not dampen the celebration, which organizers say went well.

“Lots of people came out and shared multiple perspectives,” Delay said. “There was a mixed audience with students, grad students and Ames community members. It was everything you want in an event.”