By Ellen Garnett
A burst of bright, vibrant colors greeted attendees of the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures’ first annual Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration. Students and faculty gathered on Nov. 2 in honor of Spanish and Latin American cultural icons whose work are the central focus for language classes this semester.
The department arranged an altar decorated with colorful calaveras (sugar skulls), candles, and candy for deceased influential writers, those among them Frida Kahlo from Mexico, Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, and Carmen Martín Gaite from Salamanca, Spain, to name a few. Framed photographs of writers stood on the altar, as if representing loved ones. Attendees took time to reflect on the contributions of the writers by eating and conversing with ease.
“We are starting this new tradition to share with the Simmons community a celebration of inclusiveness,” said Professor Dánisa Bonachic, chair of the department. “We would like to include the diversity of the Spanish-speaking world, here, in Europe, and in Latin America.”
A Mexican and Latin American holiday, Día de los Muertos is a three day-long celebration from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, coinciding with Halloween and the Christian All Saints Day, to commemorate the dead. In lieu of mourning those who are gone, people celebrate their lives with cheerful festivals involving food and activities enjoyed by the deceased. It is a holiday on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as of 2008.
At Simmons, Organización Latino americana also celebrated Día de los Muertos on Nov. 3 with its own altar in the Multicultural Office, which will be up until Nov. 11. Members came together to celebrate with pan dulce (sweet bread) and drank Mexican hot chocolate around their altar.
“ I had a wonderful time celebrating this holiday with people who understand and respect my culture,” said Emily Leedom, a member of the organization.“OLA has always celebrated Día de los Muertos and it is something that has always been important to us.”
As Simmons works toward a culture of diversity and inclusion, the College reflect on events such as those in celebration of Día de los Muertos to continue reaching for its goal of providing this kind of atmosphere.