The Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble held an event to celebrate Día de los Muertos on Sunday, Oct. 30. The event included Latin American music played live by the ensemble, face painting and a visual element provided in collaboration with the Lawrence University Music Education Program. Thematic shirts and stickers were also available for attendees.
The event was seen by many as a great peek into the Latin American holiday, which is meant to honor and celebrate the lives of those who have died. Traditionally, altars are created to honor the dead; these altars are known as ofrendas (Spanish for offerings).
The Mariachi Ensemble decided to collaborate with the Lawrence University Music Education Program so that attendees could better learn about the holiday and what it looks like. Music Education students showed some of the traditional holiday cuisine and danced. Jando Valdez, the Mariachi Ensemble Student Director, said that his favorite part of the event was the Music Educators’ contribution because of the visual stimulation it brought to the event and because attendees were able to see what it actually looks like.
“I feel like the most important aspect of these events is sharing the culture and sharing our traditions. It’s not really about people watching us and being like ‘Oh wow, that’s cool. Alright, I’m going to go home and do something else,’” Valdez said. “It’s more about ‘Okay, what is this?’ and going to these types of events and then saying ‘Wow! This is how I can contribute, and this is how I can be a part of it.’ The goal is to have people be active in the holiday.”
Toward the end of the event, event volunteers handed out marigold flowers, the most important flower of the tradition. They symbolize a path from the altars to the graveyard, Valdez said. In movies like Coco, there is a huge bridge of Marigold pedals for the dead to go and collect their offerings, Valdez said. They are a symbol of a bridge from the afterlife back to here.
In the original language (Nahuatl), they are called cempasuchil. They have an energy that focuses on guarding the bones of our ancestors.
“The flowers are also beacons so our ancestors can find us, which is a part of why they are part of the ofrendas,” Cesar Donaire, member of the ensemble, added.
Valdez felt great about the event and was happy to see the response from the community. People were really welcoming to the holiday which many weren’t familiar with celebrating, commented Valdez.