Día de los Muertos: Celebrating the Dead with the Living

Rogelio Valdes, Staff Writer

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Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition that honors the life and death of loved ones with altars and symbolism that dates back centuries. It’s a day of community, unity and love. On Nov. 8 staff from the College of DuPage’s McAninch Arts Center paired up with Immigrant Solidarity DuPage (ISD) to bring this tradition to life in the community. 

They organized a drive-by food donation at Camera park in Glendale Heights that was postponed from its original date because of bad weather. People were able to pay respects at the two altars dedicated to Frida Kahlo and Latin members of the community who died from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) and other sweets inspired by the tradition were given out in exchange for food donations. 

The turnout for the event was massive, and the feeling of community and family was prominent. So many people drove by with hearts full and a passion to help the community. The music from Chicago’s Mariachi Monumental de Mexico combined with the beautiful lights under the sunset made for a gorgeous and inspiring ambiance. In many traditions, people remember loved ones in mourning, however, that was not the case for Dia de los Muertos. Everyone celebrated.

“A lot of people think that Dia de los Muertos is about raising an altar for death and worshipping it. This is definitely not the case,”  said Ofrenda artist Monica Garcia, “Instead, it is a symbol to celebrate the lives and return of the loved ones that have passed.” 

The day isn’t about mourning the dead or feeling sad; it is about celebrating the lives of those who have passed and keeping up with traditions. The details of the tradition have evolved because of colonization and pre-existing cultures, but the essence remains true. 

Once a year across Mexico millions of families raise altars leading their dead loved ones to unite both life and death. This way people accept this as part of human nature, cherish the time they had with them, and carry on their memory. 

ISD is a group that takes on the mission of education, organization, and mobility of the DuPage towards the rights and collective  struggles of the Latin community. Events like this are what their foundation is all about. Taking the situation the community finds itself in, and using it to bring awareness and aid to the county. 

The drive-through was a huge opportunity to educate Mexicans in the United States who have never even been exposed to the customs of their people. What Immigrant Solidarity DuPage wants to achieve is not only to feed the bodies but the minds and hearts or the Latin community. Remind them they belong and that their cultures are rich, and beautiful. “During these times it is especially important to do an event like this,” said Immigrant Solidarity DuPage Coordinator Cristobal Cavasos.