Día de los Muertos celebrates deceased loved ones

Students honor loved ones with photographs at an altar, recall fond memories



April Almanza poses with a photograph of her grandmother, Nov. 2.

PUNEET BSANTI, Deputy news editor

Día de los Muertos, a holiday that honors deceased relatives, was celebrated among Hispanic and non-Hispanic students, faculty and Pullman community members on Wednesday at the Ensminger Pavilion.

Students were welcome to place photos of their relatives on the altar sitting in the middle of the pavilion. The altar was adorned with candles, sugar skulls, multicolored lights and offerings such as fruits.

Candles, sugar skulls and lights decorate an altar meant to honor deceased loved ones, Nov. 2.

“It makes me happy to celebrate this day with everyone,” said Kimberly Olvera, first-year biochemistry major. “There were some last-minute problems [with a projector], but not a lot of good things happen without problems.” 

Olvera was the Día de los Muertos coordinator with Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán and planned almost everything, from the decorations to the music and food. This event was a collaboration with five multicultural student groups. 

She said she is remembering her tío, or uncle, and grandfather. To honor her grandfather in the past, she went to the cemetery and cleaned his grave. Something else she liked to do was put marigolds on the altar because the smell attracts spirits. 

April Almanza (she/they), senior Spanish and pre-nursing double major, and senior zoology major Joelle Burnett were two students who honored their grandparents at the event. 

“My grandma actually passed away last year, last fall,” Almanza said. “She was the first significant loss that I experienced in my life.” 

Almanza said she would visit their grandma once a year in Mexico at her ranch. Their grandma would sing to them when she was younger, and they would always talk on the phone. 

“She was always sweet, and loving and caring,” she said. 

Burnett said she was thinking of her grandma on her dad’s side and grandpa on her mom’s side during Día de los Muertos. She said the event was a good way to cope with their deaths. 

“My parents were divorced, so I would see [my grandma] pretty much anytime I would see my dad,” she said. 

Burnett said she remembers how her grandma loved frogs and would always buy frog finger puppets.

During the event, Native American Programs was invited to share their cultural perspective on how to cope when a relative dies. Tommy Williams, retention specialist for Native American Programs, spoke about how a relative’s death is honored in the Nez Perce Tribe. 

Williams said right after a person’s death, there is a short time before their ceremony and burial. The reason for this is because they believe that person has to start their journey into their new life. 

The family of the deceased then starts a one-year-long grief process where they do not hunt, fish or celebrate with the rest of the tribe. 

Olvera said she enjoyed collaborating with Native American Programs, as well as Steve Bischoff, director of Multicultural Student Services, who shared the Filipino perspective of death and grief. 

The attendees also watched Ballet Folklórico dance and learned more about Día de los Muertos through a presentation from Crimson Group. At the end of the event, they enjoyed food and conversation at their tables.