On November 1st at 12 noon room 724 smelled of pan dulce (sweetbread) specifically Pan de Muerto: Bread of the Dead. This was because Crossing Borders, Building Bridges was giving a presentation on Dia De Los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. The celebration is however more widespread than one would think and takes place in several countries around the world. This event had two presenters, the first of which was Fernando Canto-Lugo; the husband Of Neelam Canto-Lugo who runs the Crossing Borders, Building Bridges events. Before the presenters started, Neelam Canto-Lugo gave an introduction that spoke of the “melting pot of America”, referring to how a Hispanic celebration had become almost mainstream in America. Fernando Canto-Lugo then began the presentation by giving the history of the festival and describing its character as well as its international celebration.
Canto-Lugo told the audience how Dia De Los Muertos was originally a festival celebrated by the Aztecs, Incas ,and other natives who predated the Spanish explorers. When Cortes brought Catholic missionaries over to convert the indigenous people they merged the Day of the Dead celebration with the Catholic, All Saints Day.
Canto-Lugo said that today Dia De Los Muertos serves to connect people to their ancestors because the celebration is a “family affair” where the people celebrating talk about dead relatives as though they were present. One point Canto-Lugo wanted to make clear was that the idea of death in Mexico is not scary the way it usually is considered in America. In fact Canto-Lugo said many funerals in Mexico resemble a party. Canto-Lugo then explained how the festival was celebrated in Spain,the Philippines, Brazil (where there is Afro-Influence due to the countries history of Africans being brought there) and in the U.S where it is becoming more common. With this Canto-Lugo finished his presentation and introduced the next presenter Jose Ramon Munoz.
Munoz began by paying tribute to Sandra Camarena who actually prepared the presentation he gave but couldn’t make it. Camarena also provided the Pan de Muerto. Munoz pointed out that despite being about the dead, Dia De Los Muertos is “Full of Life” as one slide said.
Munoz said in Mexico, funeral stores are so normal that they allow window shopping. Munoz said It “is not a sad day” because Hispanic tradition says that only the body dies while the spirit lives. He brought up that the Dia De Los Muertos is about love not fear. A slide stated that the celebration paid tribute to life’s complete cycle. Munoz showed the audience videos of skeleton dancers and of how the festival was celebrated in Mexico to emphasize the joyful nature of the holiday. Munoz closed his presentation by introducing the Dia De Los Muertos themed art work of student Lila Solorzano. Afterwords the students helped themselves to the Pan de Muerto and were encouraged to visit the Dia De Los Muertos exhibits in the old library.