Nov 18, 2019
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An altar was made with decorations and personal mementos for the Día de los Muertos celebration to remember the dead near the free speech area on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Día de los Muertos celebrates memories of the dead

For two days, Fresno State honored the Día de los Muertos celebration with altar set-ups, art work, indigenous vendors, Fresno State Mariachi performances, spoken word performances and the Aztec Dance Club’s opening and closing ceremonies.

Students and clubs on campus surrounded the free speech area near the Henry Madden Library for Fresno State’s 13th annual Día de los Muertos celebration on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2.

The event was put on by the Fresno State Aztec Dance Club and community group Yoztaltepeti.

Día de los Muertos is a Mexican tradition running from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 where the living honor and celebrate their loved ones who have died. 

The holiday allows for individuals and families to make altars and follow traditions that honor the deceased. An altar can be a variety of items that symbolize the personality traits of a person’s loved ones. These items typically include art, pictures, candles, food and accessories to tell the story of the ones who have died.

Two long tables were set out in the free speech area with altars made by students to celebrate those who were important in their life, which included many celebrities who have died, such as Frida Kahlo, Amy Winhouse, Paul Walker and Selena Quintanilla, among others. 

Rick Garica, a vendor at the event, has been doing vendor fairs for Día de los Muertos all throughout Fresno for more than 28 years. 

“Basically, it is a celebration about life, not about death. A lot of people associate it with death, but that is not what is about,” Garcia said. “It is a celebration of people that we had the pleasure of meeting or knowing.”

Garica was proud to be back at Fresno State for another year to honor Día de Los Muertos with his framed art, t-shirts and accessories. 

”There are three different types of death: the actual physical death of your body is the first. When your body is laid in the ground is your second, and when your name is not spoken anymore, that is the third,” Garcia said. “Nobody remembers you. So today, as long as you remember the people that passed, they are still alive.” 

The event continued on with Fresno State’s Mariachi band, where all 12 members were front and center at the free speech area for a 30-minute performance of five songs honoring the remembrance of loved ones who have died. 

Asian Pacific Islander programs and services also joined the event by using it as an opportunity to pass out flowers with notes on them educating students on “Remember the Fall of Phnom Penh,” which was a result of the genocide of 2 million deaths after the Khmer Rouge marched into the Cambodian capital.

Pictures were provided to show students the ways in which they were treated and the importance of honoring those deaths in Cambodia. 

Gessel Munoz, an art major, said that her knowledge of this celebration is enough to put together a tradition to commemorate those who have died. 

“People set up altars with things they used to like, such as flowers, pictures, even food,” Munoz said. “I think people should pay attention to what is on the altars and what is different from each altar. Some of them show the same things, but I think there is always going to be that one different altar that stands out from another.”

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