Día de los Muertos event provides a glimpse into Mexican culture

By Miranda Parrish

Elm Staff Writer

The William James Forum and the World Languages and Cultures Department at Washington College hosted a Día de Los Muertos event on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Hodson Egg.

Faculty, staff, and students attended and could bring pictures of their lost loved ones to add to campus-wide memoriam, while also enjoying traditional Mexican cuisine, music, and face painting.

Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Director of the First-Year Seminar Dr. Martín Ponti was one of the leaders for the event.

According to Dr. Ponti, the event began running six years ago to give students taking Spanish classes the opportunity to learn about the day in a hands-on manner.

“We started doing that and we noticed that there was a lot of interest from people who weren’t in the class but still wanted to participate, so each year it grew from an activity in class to something that spilled out of class to a school-wide event,” Dr. Ponti said.

While the event was hosted by the World Languages and Cultures department, the William James Forum provided the funding for the event.

The event was separated into several different parts, with food, festivities, and altar building at 5 p.m., and then a concert at 6 p.m.

During COVID-19 quarantine, the department hosted this event virtually, when they added the concert portion of the event. Performers sang, and then students from Spanish classes had their own virtual alter.

Dr. Ponti said that he wanted to continue the music element in-person.

“Now our students got to sing, which was really amazing,” Dr. Ponti said. “We were able to combine many levels, so there were students that were majoring mixed with students who were fulfilling their distribution requirements.”

Freshmen Ty Everitt participated in the concert portion of the event, singing with their class in Spanish.

“I think it was fun to sing,” Everett said. “We practiced the song in class several times and we had a good time doing it in class, so I was excited to perform it.”

Freshman Arianna Smith also sang with students from the College’s choir.

“I was excited to show people at the College more of the culture that is my second culture, because we rarely see that here,” Smith said.

Junior Alexis Soto said she attended the event because she saw an email advertising it.

“It’s November and this is a holiday we have in our culture,” Soto said. “It reminds me of home. We don’t always celebrate it at home, but in November we usually have Day of the Dead bread and hot cocoa.”

Other students stopped by while passing through, after hearing the music and seeing the attractions.

This event allowed students to partake in a unique learning experience about Mexican and Hispanic culture, while also sharing the cuisine, music, and remembrance that is associated with the holiday.

“Our main goal, which it still is, is intercultural competence, and we want to give students the experience of really exploring the way different cultures celebrate life and death,” Dr. Ponti said. “And this was one opportunity.”

Photo by Miranda Parrish

Photo Caption: Face painters hired for the event designed attendee’s full features with traditional Day of the Dead makeup.

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