The SRU Student Organization for Latinos, Hispanics and Allies (S.O.L.) celebrated Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Wednesday evening with a packed audience in the Robert M. Smith Student Center Ballroom.
S.O.L. collaborated with the Cosplay Club, SRU Moda and the President’s Commission for Race and Ethnic Diversity for this event.
President of S.O.L., Yadira Lupian-Lua said Dia de los Muertos is a two-day celebration. The first day is a celebration of the young children that have died and the second day is a tribute to the older individuals. Lupian-Lua said it is a celebration for them and the afterlife.
Lupian-Lua said generally, people create a shrine in their house to commemorate the dead, where they put bread, water, flowers, pictures and whatever their favorite things are in the shrine. She said the shrine is built on the first day of Dia de los Muertos and lasts the whole week.
She also said people gather at their loved ones’ grave sites every Wednesday to celebrate.
“A lot of people think it’s a little weird because you’re going to the grave and putting music on [to celebrate],” Lupian-Lua said.
Assistant professor of Communication, Dr. Pease-Hernandez was the emcee of the night.
There were four stories that were shown during the event: “Los Aztecas,” “El Coco,” “Las Lechuzas,” “La Llorona” and “La Muerte.”
“Los Aztecas” was a story surrounding the ceremonies held during the Aztec summer month of Miccailhuitontli, where the main focus is the celebration of the dead. These ceremonies were held under the direction of the goddess, Mixtecacihutl. The event is similar to today because both children and their dead ancestors were remembered and celebrated.
“El Coco” featured a story about the children in Latin America who feared the Boogeyman (El Coco). The Boogeyman is a dark and shapeless monster that kidnaps and eats children who disobey their parents and don’t fall asleep when they’re told to.
“Las Lechuzas” are evil witches that turn into birds with red eyes. They come out at night and swoop in and attack. It is said that if someone would like to meet the birds, all they have to do is go outside at midnight and whistle three times.
“La Llorona,” the legend of “The Weeping Woman,” is a story about a woman named Maria who takes out her anger on her cheating husband by drowning her own children in the river. With her sorrow following her into her after-life, her spirits haunt the streets at night crying out for her children and taking any children she finds in her path.
“La Muerte” focused on La Santa Muerte, a female folk saint respected in Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
La Santa Muerte is a personification of death, but she is also associated with healing, protection and safe delivery to the afterlife.
Creator of SRU Moda and Activities Coordinator of S.O.L, Lauren Hernandez, designed all of the outfits for the event. Hernandez said she split all the costumes up for each particular story.
Hernandez said she got her inspiration for the costumes for “Los Aztecas” from looking at traditional Aztec outfits. She said since she is Aztec, she got a chance to learn more about her culture. She said these were the most intense costumes she had to design.
For “La Llorona,” Hernandez said she went off of what S.O.L. did last year. She said she wanted a lot of lace in these costumes because all of the actors were women.
She said “El Coco” was easy to design because it was all black, but that she tried to add her own little elements in when she could.
For “La Lechuza,” since owls were prominent in the story, Hernandez said she wanted to use more earthy tones with flower prints and feathers on them.
Hernandez said for “La Muerte,” she wanted to show what Mexican’s perception of death is, which she said is colorful. The costumes during “La Muerte” were all traditional outfits from Mexico, Hernandez said.
Hernandez said her biggest accomplishment from this show is realizing that she could put together all the costumes for the show.
“When I took on this project, I didn’t realize how much work it was going to be,” Hernandez said. “I had a moment of panic for a little bit. It made me realize that this is what I really want to do. I love it and it actually gave me more motivation to keep working and doing more.”
One prominent element of the costumes at Dia de los Muertos is the face paint. The face paint is usually something that is done during the processions at Dia de los Muertos, Lupian-Lua said. She said during this time, sugar skulls are also very prominent, which made Lupian-Lua want to tie it into the show.
“The sugar skull is amplified throughout the whole two-day celebration,” Lupian-Lua said. “We wanted to tie that in with the models, just to keep the theme consistent and luckily we were able to have Cosplay do it again.”
President of the Cosplay Club, Crystal Goettler, said the club also helped with the event last year. She said the club got asked when Lupian-Lua saw their posters on campus that advertised the Cosplay’s Club hair and make-up artists. Goettler said Lupian-Lua came to one of their meetings and asked them to be a part of the event.
“This year, she asked us to come back again because she liked how we did,” Goettler said. “They grew in size, by double, which is great. That means it was a success last year.”
Goettler said the club went from painting 15 faces last year to painting 30 this year.
Goettler said the face painting was a lot more complex this year. She said the leads in every group were a lot more intricate because they were meant to stand out.
“Last year, we tried to make everyone really elaborate, which led the audience to be more confused in a way because they couldn’t tell who was supposed to be the lead because everyone looked the same,” Goettler said.
Goettler said the club painted the background faces so that they still stood out, just not as much as the lead.
“They’re equally as elaborate,” Goettler said. “We just tried to tone down the rest of them in comparison to the lead.”
Goettler said for the main leads, it took about 30 to 40 minutes to paint their faces and 15 to 20 minutes for the background members.
Lupian-Lua said this event was a lot different from last year because the show was in the ATS Auditorium last year. She said although being in ATS last year was great, it was great to be in the Ballroom. With the bigger venue, Lupian-Lua said there are a lot more components to think about.
“We probably started [planning] early September,” Lupian-Lua said. “We had the Ballroom already booked since last year. It’s just figuring out was our vision, that usually takes a bit more time. A lot of people were excited to be models, so that wasn’t really hard to find. This year, we had 30 models.”
One thing Lupian-Lua said she hopes students took away from the event is what Dia de los Muertos actually stands for.
“A lot of times a lot of people just have misconceptions of, ‘oh, it’s just a sugar skull,’ they just know about that, but they really don’t know the meaning of it,” Lupian-Lua said. “It’s to commemorate our loved ones who have gone to the afterlife. For us, death is a celebration. We embrace it.”