Students experience Hispanic culture in celebration of Día de los Muertos


Kennith Woods

Students gather around the Altar de Muertos, which was used by the Spanish Club to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. The altar is lined with pictures of and items important to loved ones who have passed away.

Southeastern students celebrated Día de los Muertos outside the University Police Department on Wednesday night. The holiday honors loved ones who have passed away with a 24-hour reunion of the living and the dead. 

To celebrate this brief period of reunion, families set out food, drinks and sentimental items important to their loved ones during their time alive for them to enjoy.

“This unique tradition helps us to feel closure with our loved ones that have passed away. We celebrate their life and the things they did, and it reminds us of the cycle of life, in some cases makes the process of grief lighter, and it lets us celebrate death as a part of life,” said Kathery Esqueda, president of the Spanish Club, the organization on campus that hosted the event. 

Stephanie Gabrie, a senior communication major and University Housing resident assistant, started SLU’s Día de los Muertos tradition. Gabrie planned the Spanish Club event for the fourth time this year.

“I’m from Honduras, born and raised, but my family’s closer from Mexico, so I’ve always celebrated the Day of the Dead. However, I noticed that we really didn’t have a celebration here on campus, so I said, ‘Okay, let’s just bring it to campus,’ and I decided to throw it one year in Taylor hall, and it was a hit,” Gabrie said. 

Attendees were urged to honor a loved one for the holiday. Students created makeshift picture frames for their loved ones. Gabrie printed attendees’ loved ones’ pictures for their picture frames. The celebration also featured Hispanic music, games, food and candies, including Pulparindo and Jarritos.

After the celebration, attendees went to the Sims Library, the location of the Spanish Club’s Altar de Muertos, which was set up on Oct. 27 and 30. They placed pictures of their loved ones and other mementos on the altar.

One of the students who participated in the celebration of a loved one’s passing was Addie Schmit, a junior middle school education major. 

“The person that I put on the altar was my papa. He passed away last March, and it really just meant a lot to me to be able to make a little banner and show my representation and my love for him on the altar to celebrate his life,” Schmit said. 

Students on Southeastern’s diverse campus often struggle to learn about their peers’ cultures and traditions. The Día de los Muertos event gave them a chance to learn about another culture in a meaningful and respectful way while processing their loss by commemorating a loved one’s life with a group of caring people.

“This year is actually my second year participating in this program, but it just felt more sentimental to me this year because now I felt like I could put my own experience into the culture by celebrating a deceased loved one, and celebrating their life. It was really therapeutic for me to just relax and focus on my love for my papa. I just really like being able to show my love for him through somebody else’s culture. I think it’s really special,” Schmit said. 

Gabrie expressed similar thoughts about the way students can connect with different cultures just by having the courage to be curious. 

“A lot of people don’t realize that it’s a huge representation for a big portion of campus, and even if you don’t know what Day of the Dead is, a lot of people just hop in there and say, ‘What is it? Let’s learn about it,’” Gabrie said. 

For more information on future events, contact Esqueda or contact the Spanish Club’s Instagram profile.