November 12, 2020
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2020 El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebrations

Screenshot from the first Zoom event. Provided by Professor Mildred López.

El día de los muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a special international celebration practiced throughout many Spanish speaking countries. Its rituals and traditions can be traced back to both indigenous cultures and European Christian practices. As a holiday, it demonstrates the blending of these countries in Central and South America, and it is now celebrated in many countries across the world including the United States and some parts of Asia. Although it is celebrated differently in each country and culture, at its heart it is intended to be a celebration of life and a way to honor and remember loved ones who have passed.

The JKM Library was proud and excited to partner once again with Modern Languages, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Counseling Services to host Chatham’s third celebration of el día de los muertos as part of the Latinx Heritage Month celebrations. This year, to keep everyone safe, we hosted our event series virtually via Zoom. This meant lots of compromises concerning activities and programming during each event, but we were pleased to be able to bring this event series back to Chatham despite such difficult times. There were 34 total participants between both virtual events.

Screenshot from the first Zoom event. Provided by Professor Mildred López.

On Tuesday, October 27th we offered “¡Celebremos el día de los muertos!”, an educational presentation on el día de los muertos. Students from Professor Mildred López’s Spanish LNG161 and LNG261 classes led a presentation on the history and culture of the holiday. After the presentation, we watched a video, got a tour of JKM Library resources on the subject, and played a spirited game of el día de los muertos trivia.

The second event was hosted on Thursday, October 29th and featured a discussion led by Dr. Elsa Arce and Susan Kusmierski from Counseling Services on how to cope with grief, celebrate life, and honor both. Attendees shared personal losses they experienced in their lives, what those losses meant to them, how they handle their grief, and how they remember and honor those they have lost. Attendees also discussed the place that a holiday like el día de los muertos could have in the United States, and what communal grieving could offer them personally. Professor Mildred López also walked attendees through an event in Piura, Peru that helps women cope with the loss of children. The entire community comes together through a very touching and emotional ritual that asks mothers to share their children with the women who have lost theirs. This event allows individuals to heal both communally and across generations. Professor López also discussed the significance of Monarch butterflies, which are used as both a metaphor for immigration and a symbol of the souls of loved ones coming back to visit their families.

Because we were unable to offer the usual crafting projects as part of this year’s event series, templates and instructions for multiple engaging crafts were made available on the JKM Library’s resources page. Participants were encouraged to try the crafts at home. Recipes for the traditional refreshments were also made available for those who wanted to try their hand at making the pan de muerto or indigenous hot xocolatl (chocolate) themselves.

Thank you to all sponsoring departments, to Mildred López and her Spanish classes, to Dr. Elsa Arce, Susan Kusmierski, and to everyone who attended. We look forward to continuing to celebrate el día de los muertos in 2021.

November 21, 2019
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2019 Day of the Dead Celebrations!

Chatham’s Day of the Dead event series continues to be an exciting and successful celebration! Held for the first time in 2018, the series consists of two events that educate the Chatham community on the international holiday and offer opportunities to celebrate the traditions and act in the spirit of the day.

The series is sponsored by the Jennie King Mellon (JKM) Library, Modern Languages, the Multicultural Affairs Office, and the Counseling Center as part of Chatham’s Latinx Heritage Month celebrations. The events have been held in the JKM Library for the past two years.

Our first event this year, held on October 21st, consisted of a workshop run by students from Mildred Lopez-Escudero’s LNG261 Spanish language course, where attendees learned about the history and reach of el dia de los Muertos. The attendees created cempasuchil (paper flowers) together for addition to the ofrenda (altar). The group then worked together to decorate our 2019 dia de los Muertos ofrenda.

Previous to the event, the library sent out a survey to the Chatham community asking for ofrenda honoree nominations. After a final round of voting, the community selected the Tree of Life Victims, Victims of Gun Violence, and Trans Women of Color who were killed in 2019. These groups held a place of honor on our ofrenda this year.

At our second event of the series, Chatham University’s Counseling Services ran a workshop on grief. The discussion focused on sharing experiences and memories of loved ones who have passed and discussing ways to cope with grief. The group also discussed ways to honor those loved ones. This is the major element of el dia de los Muertos. Remembering and honoring loved ones who have passed allows communities to life up their ancestors, celebrate life, and cope with grief. It’s healing through celebration; honoring both death and life.

After the discussion, the group made paper Monarch butterflies and decorated them with glitter, rhinestones, and other embellishments. Some people wrote the names of their loved ones on their butterfly or messages of remembrance to send out into the universe. The butterflies were added to the ofrenda in honor of the attendees’ loved ones. Both events featured refreshments of traditional Mexican hot chocolate and pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead) to share. Both were prepared by university catering following traditional Mexican recipes.

Almost 60 people attended this year’s event series, an increase over last year. We love this event series and are excited to continue offering it in the future. A big thank you to the Jennie King Mellon Library, Mildred Lopez-Escudero and the Modern Languages Department, Elsa Arce and Counseling Services, and Randi Congleton and the Multicultural Affairs Office.

You can read more about our Day of the Dead celebrations in our blog post from last year’s events, as well as in this post on PULSE@Chatham. Click through our gallery of images to get a good look at what these celebrations entailed.

November 14, 2018
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First Annual Day of the Dead Celebration!

The touching and insightful Disney Pixar film Coco pushed the Day of the Dead to the front of popular culture in the United States last year, but this celebration has been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The Day of the Dead is an established international holiday that can trace its roots back to indigenous traditions in the Americas and the Catholicism brought by the Spanish and other Europeans. Continue reading to hear about Chatham’s celebration of the holiday and see images of our ofrenda.

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