Dia de Los Muertos, All Saints/Souls celebrate cultural collaboration

Kathryn Williams, Editor-In-Chief

Exciting programming put on through collaborative efforts seeks to bring Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints/Souls (November 1 and 2) traditions to the Anselm community. The Office of Campus Ministry, Modern Language department, Multicultural Student Coalition, and many students have come together to offer meaningful, cultural experiences.

“Dia de Los muertos is a cultural extension of what we all know as the communion of Saints and Souls Nov 1-2,” explained Joycelin Raho, a Campus Minister involved in planning these celebrations. “Mexican culture has a richness that not only reminds us not to fear death (because eternal life awaits us) but also the reminder that those who have gone before us are a part of us as a family (both biological and spiritual) and there to intercede on our behalf,” she continued.

Camila Heredua Osante ‘26 hosted a Muerteada event in collaboration with Campus Ministry and the Modern Language department. Students gathered to eat delicious Mexican food, create a colored salt mural, and learn about Mexican, Catholic traditions. Professor Jaime Orrego, Associate Professor of Spanish and Chair of the Modern Languages and Literatures department, said that is favorite part of the event was learning about “how on Día de los Muertos we are not only honoring the life of our departed loved ones, but also our own lives.”

The event was centered around the creation of a “tapete de arena,” which translates to “sand mat” and is an important tradition in Oaxaca, Mexico for celebrating Dia de los Muertos.

Participants began by creating a base of brown, damp sand and forming various designs to create a community mural of sorts. “At the beginning, people didn’t know how to be part of the activity, but Camila did a great job explaining to us that we could mold whatever we felt like with the sand. And that’s what we did,” said Orrego. Once the designs were complete, different colored sands were poured to make the designs stand out and bring the piece to life. 

The team was guided through the process by Osante, who grew up celebrating these traditions in Mexico. “In the school we celebrate it and we made beautiful Altares del Día de muertos,” she said. “We appreciate this tradition so much because the meaning of all of this is to remember our family that is no longer with us and give them something so they know that we remember them, that they are still in our hearts and that we will never forget them,” she continued. 

Professor Orrego was moved by the spirit of community and teamwork that transcended cultural differences during the event. “What I found more interesting, is that each one of us started working on his/her own, and then we began helping one another.  That’s why the final product is a representation of all of us,” he said.

Camila shared how it was a nice experience to bring people together to celebrate this important cultural tradition. “I loved sharing this tradition with the college community because it is something that we all can do to keep in our thoughts our loved ones,” she said. 

“I think this is a good analogy of how different cultures could blend.  We can come from different family backgrounds, but we were able to combine them and honor not only Mexican culture but our own culture,” said Orrego.

Another opportunity to honor loved ones this Dia de Los Muertos is the Ofrenda located in the Multifaith Prayer Room. Put on by the Multicultural Student Coalition and Campus Ministry, all are invited to honor their loved ones by placing a photo or momento on the Ofrenda, or writing their names on the book. The Ofrenda is an altar built to honor the dead by placing photos and items to honor them during Dia de Los Muertos, the day where souls can return to their loved ones on earth. There is an intersection of Catholic faith and Mexican tradition that is found in the Ofrenda. 

The annual Luminaria Mass is an Anselmian tradition where the Abbey Church is filled with Luminaria bags aglow by tealights. The Ofrenda will be moved to the Church on November 6 for the Mass. Students have the opportunity to decorate white paper bags in the Student Center with names and designs to honor their loved ones. During the Mass, everyone gathers to pray for departed souls, an extension of celebration for All Souls day on November 2. All are welcome to attend the Mass, which will begin at 7pm on Sunday, November 6.