Tradition continues: Día de los Muertos altars cultivates cultural solidarity across campus


Kaitlynn Devitt / Hilltop Views

Adorned Día de los Muertos altars scattered throughout campus honor the dead through spirituality and community.

Día de los Muertos, also known as the Day of the Dead, is a holiday traditionally celebrated at the end of October and the beginning of November. The Mexican tradition is celebrated by many and involves the creation of altars, or ofrendas, to honor the dead as a form of prayer or remembrance. The College Assistance Migrant Program and Peer Ministry displayed an ofrenda in the on-campus chapel from Oct.19 to Nov. 3. This allowed students, faculty, and staff to gather as a community and remember their loved ones who have passed.

This altar was located in the Our Lady Queen of Peace Chapel. According to Liza Manjarrez, senior associate director of Campus Ministry, the ofrendas tradition has been a part of the campus since the early 90s. Manjarrez shared her recent loss of her mother and how she was able to find peace in placing a photo of her along with her abuelitos upon the altar. “The main altars can be found in the chapel and in Hunt Hall Cafe, but there are also altars in office buildings, residence halls and rooms all over campus,” Manjarrez said. “St. Edward’s is blessed to have a rich and deep cultural heritage rooted in the Mexican community. The annual celebration of Día de los Muertos helps us to honor the intersection of faith and culture.” (Kaitlynn Devitt/Hilltop Views)
Photos of the deceased, candles, prayer cards and traditional food offerings covered the altars. Calista Robledo, mass coordinator and senior at St. Edward’s, shared her thoughts on what seeing these altars means to her. “I love seeing a piece of my culture on campus,” Robledo said. “To me, Día de los Muertos is a great time to reflect and remember those we know who’ve died. As someone who frequents mass, seeing the ofrenda while praying is comforting, grounding and beautiful. It reminds me of home.”(Kaitlynn Devitt/Hilltop Views)
The altar (above) was put together by students, faculty and staff in Moody Hall. Celebrations like this altar have different significance and meanings to the owners and viewers. “After 14 years on the Hilltop, I’ve come to love, respect and welcome the memories that come with each year’s ofrenda,” Manjarrez said. “They are never the same. People are welcome to retrieve their items, but most let us keep the photos, keepsakes and prayer cards. Each year, we unwrap the candles and calaveras and remember those who we’ve lost.” (Kaitlynn Devitt/Hilltop Views)
Along with food, photos and prayer cards, some altars overflow with Calaveras, or sugar skulls, and handcrafted flowers made of tissue paper. (Kaitlynn Devitt/Hilltop Views)
The altar pictured above was created by students, faculty and staff and was located in the John Brooks Williams Natural Science Center. Two more essential elements to the Day of the Dead ofrendas are marigolds, bright flowers that symbolize the brevity of life, and Christian crosses. Every year, St. Edward’s gives students the opportunity to remember their deceased loved ones, share their stories and help keep their memories alive. (Kaitlynn Devitt/Hilltop Views)