U TRIO Program Celebrates Día de Los Muertos with Traditional Altar


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By Isaac Dunaway, Sports Writer


On Nov. 1, 2021,  Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall signed a proclamation to make Nov. 1-2 Día de los Muertos Days.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead in English, is a holiday originating in Mexico. It is a celebration of those who have passed away, including family and friends. The holiday is typically celebrated on Nov. 1-2.

People who passed away at eighteen years old or younger are celebrated on the first day, with adults celebrated on the second day.

“It’s a special day — the Day of the Dead is big,” said Abelardo de la Cruz, a professor of world languages and cultures at the University of Utah. “It’s a huge celebration. It’s not a festival — it’s a sacred day.”

The U’s TRIO program held an altar for Día de Los Muertos on Tuesday, Nov. 2, honoring indigenous tradition. It was held outside the TRIO office, located in room 60 of the Union building.

The TRIO program at the U works to support underserved students throughout their education and “to promote social justice in education,” among other mission statements.

“It has meaning for us, and for our loved ones that already passed away,” said Janet Reyes, an academic success graduate assistant for the U’s TRIO program. “This tradition is an important one for the Mexican culture, it is a beautiful tradition in Mexico.”

Día de los Muertos is an important holiday for those who celebrate it and there are a lot of ways to honor those who have passed.

“Today is a special day to join food, to join drinks with people who passed away, and many of them are on the altar,” de la Cruz said. “It’s a good day to go to the cemetery and to visit the person who passed away. In the cemetery, we bring food, hot chocolate, flowers, sometimes alcohol, sometimes cigarettes.”

In addition to honoring those who have passed, Día de los Muertos is also about appreciating those who are still alive.

“Maybe your godfather, maybe your parents … It’s a day to visit one person who is alive and to bring an offering,” de la Cruz said.

Included at the TRIO event was a presentation by de la Cruz about the meaning and celebration of the holiday, as well as tamales and soda afterwards. 

During his presentation, de la Cruz made an altar and explained the significance of each part. Included in these altars, meant to welcome the dead who are visiting, are food and drink sacrifices, photos of loved ones who have passed away and much more.

“It was amazing because his students were able to see a physical presentation of an altar, to see what are the parts that Abelardo put on there and the meaning behind all of those parts,” Reyes said. “For example, the food that he put on there, the photo, the candles, the flowers and other stuff.”

Reyes said it is important to have an open mind when learning about the cultures and traditions of others.

“Through these goodwill events, students come, get educated and learn about other traditions,” Reyes said. “I think it’s important to focus on other traditions [of] another culture, but also to focus in on how to enrich them in the campus community.”


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