In a crowded room on the second floor of the College of Canyons’ library, an altar filled with paper marigolds, photos of loved ones, bright candles and lights served as the focal point of attention.
COC professors of the humanities department then took a moment to discuss a topic that can be complicated — death.
Students and staff worked in collaboration to prepare food, music, decorations and an altar in honor of Día de los Muertos on Wednesday afternoon. The room will be up for viewing for the COC community through Nov. 2.
“This is a way to show the culture of many of our students, but also to share some of the traditions throughout Latin America,” said Lucia Pozo, a Spanish professor at COC. “We created a setting that represents some of our students and what it’s like to honor their loved ones once a year.”
Dia de los Muertos is an annual holiday that is celebrated throughout Latin America, typically honored on Nov. 1-2. For many families it is a celebration of life, and a way to remember their loved ones who died.
The celebration at COC was prepared among the departments of modern languages, culture, anthropology, English as a Second Language, culinary arts, the Associated Student Government, Sigma Delta Mu and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Modern languages and cultures professors Claudia Acosta and Luis Lara gave a presentation on the tradition and read poetry exploring death, respectively. Other faculty members said a few remarks, too, about the significance of the holiday.
Julissa Bozman, associate artistic director of the SCV Youth Orchestra, and Xaman Kryger, executive director, played their violins to themes of “La Llorona,” “La Bruja,” “Recuérdame,” and “Besame Mucho.”
Students and staff also pinned photos of their loved ones on a wall as part of an exhibit, “Remember Me.”
According to Pozo, the celebrations happen every year and the location of the festivities might differ year to year. The goal is to participate in the holiday, but also to introduce the tradition and share it with everyone.
Each culture has its way of honoring the dead, she added, but if people look closely, there are many similarities.
Patsy Ayala, representative for Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares, attended the celebration and presented COC with an award.
“It is very important because one of her priorities is to be with her community and to share the traditions that we live with throughout our community,” Ayala said.
Hart High School student Ella Mee, a senior who is taking an online Spanish course at COC, said she attended the event because she wanted to learn more about the culture. She said a lot of her friends celebrate Dia de los Muertos.
“I learned a lot,” Mee said. “I learned about the specific food offerings for the dead and how it’s more a celebration rather than a mourning. It’s very different from a funeral. It’s more of a happy transcendence back in to the present.”