Community honors the dead through Día de Los Muertos festivities


Jaden Edison

A calavera sits on display, Monday, Oct. 28, 2019, at the Día de los Muertos community altar in Lampasas Hall. [Photo by Jaden Edison]

Brianna Benitez

The San Marcos and Texas State community honor the lives of passed loved ones in celebration of Día de Los Muertos.

Also known as Day of the Dead, the traditional Mexican holiday aims to reunite the living and deceased. The holiday begins midnight, Nov. 1, and continues until noon Nov. 2.

Those who celebrate the holiday create an “oferenda”: an altar displaying offerings to deceased loved ones. Altars are made with either two, three or seven levels.

The division between the earth and sky is represented by two-tiered altars. Oferendas with three levels represent the sky, earth and underworld; seven levels represent pillars a soul must reach before arriving in heaven or hell.

Each altar contains offerings unique to the deceased individual. Pictures of the loved one, dishes of their favorite foods and personal memorabilia are typically placed on the altar.

Additionally, altars may include candles symbolizing a family’s love for their deceased relatives, incense to purify souls of the dead and colorful tissue paper to represent the union of life and death.

There will be several locations around campus—including Lampasas, Nueces, Centennial and Commons Dining Hall—where students, faculty and staff are invited to celebrate deceased loved ones by placing a picture of them on the altars.

Karla Hernandez-Swift is the student development specialist for Project Maestros, a program assisting Hispanic students pursuing teacher certifications.

Hernandez-Swift said there will be several campus events for students and staff to celebrate and attend to learn more about Día de Los Muertos.

A showing of the Disney Pixar movie “Coco,” a film about a young boy’s journey to the land of the dead on Día de Los Muertos, will be held 5:30-8 p.m Oct. 30 in Evans 118. There will be a discussion about the film and the significance of the holiday after the showing.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to learn more about Día de Los Muertos and connect with community resources at the Pan Dulce Para El Alma event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 31 in LBJ 3-13.1.

Hernandez-Swift said events serve to educate students on the significance of the holiday and provide a sense of comfort to those unable to celebrate with their families.

“I really encourage students to participate and admire what Día de Los Muertos entails,” Hernandez-Swift said. “These events are not just to celebrate our loved ones but unify all students.”

The 2019 Día de Los Muertos Representation of Death in Literature Around the World event will be held from 7-9 p.m., Nov. 4, in Centennial 157.

Gloria Velasquez, senior Spanish lecturer, is one of the event organizers. Velasquez said the activity will address the ways death is represented in literature and how those representations shape cultural identity.

The event will feature speakers from multiple backgrounds discussing how death is represented in their culture. Each presentation will focus on a specific form of literature like poems, fairytales or novels.

“We invite presenters from multiple backgrounds to show the student body we can all be together in one room and showcase our differences and similarities,” Velasquez said.

Celia Rosales is the director for the San Marcos Día de Los Muertos 5K Run. The Rosales family established the competition to honor the life of her son, Johnnie Rosales, who passed away after getting hit by a drunk driver.

Rosales said all proceeds from the race are donated to Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos and the Johnnie T. Rosales Memorial Scholarship. The fund is awarded every year to graduating seniors from San Marcos High School.

Rosales said she hopes the contest encourages the community to celebrate life, their loved ones and each another.

“Life is very short, but it is also very beautiful,” Rosales said. “One of the things Day of the Dead does is reminds us to appreciate life.”

The race will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 2, and begins at Hernandez Elementary School.

Elsie Romano is a coordinator for the Día de Los Muertos 5K Run and has been working the event since it started in 2013.

Romano said she hopes the race enables the San Marcos community to become more aware of what Día de Los Muertos entails.

“People tend to associate Día de Los Muertos with Halloween, but it is a unique cultural holiday intended to celebrate someone who has passed on,” Romano said. “We don’t want it to be misunderstood, but celebrated as a time to rejoice.”

For more information on community and campus Día de Los Muertos festivities, visit

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