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Dining hall celebrates Dia de los Muertos

Chicano/a Latino/a Student Center works with Southside Cafe

The+celebration+has+been+planned+since+September+%0Ato+make+this+a+campus-wide+event.
The celebration has been planned since September 
to make this a campus-wide event.

The celebration has been planned since September to make this a campus-wide event.

NICK SANDIFER | The Daily Evergreen

NICK SANDIFER | The Daily Evergreen

The celebration has been planned since September to make this a campus-wide event.

NINA WILLIS, Evergreen reporter

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Southside Cafe will host a Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebration with traditional Mexican cuisine, while displaying some of the holiday’s customs and typical decorations.

The manager of WSU Dining Services approached Rafael Pruneda, the retention counselor of the Chicano/a Latino/a Student Center, in September to plan an event centered around Dia de los Muertos, Pruneda said.

The Latinx organizations on campus have always celebrated the festivity in smaller ways, he said. But since 2009, they have wanted to expand it into a campus-wide event.

“Here at a university campus, students are probably coming from areas where they have no idea what this is all about,” Pruneda said. “Hopefully this will be a starting point for them to understand and open their minds to different cultural experiences.”

To avoid cultural appropriation, Dining Services wanted to gain the approval of the Latinx Student Center and do proper research about the holiday before proceeding, he said.

“Especially within our pop culture, we’re starting to see more Dia de los Muertos art in film,” Pruneda said. “A lot of people are starting to take note of it because the movie ‘Book of Life,’ and now with ‘Coco’ coming out soon.”

In order to include all traditional aspects of this holiday, the Latinx Student Center will also construct an altar in remembrance of loved ones, he said. In these altars, people typically display photos of loved ones and items unique to them, such as a favorite snack, to help remember their time on earth.

“Every year it’s pretty cool to put their pictures on the altar,” Pruneda said. “I have pictures that date from the late 1800s of many of my ancestors. Not a lot of people can say they have those kinds of photographs.

They will also have papel picado, literally “pecked paper,” on display around the cafe as well, Pruneda said. Papel picado is cut-out tissue paper with elaborate designs, usually hanging on a string like a banner.

Southside picked a variety of traditional foods to serve that capture Mexican culture, Pruneda said.

The cafe will be serving elote, which is grilled corn on the cob, he said. Corn originated in the Americas, with indigenous peoples consuming it as a staple food for thousands of years.

To help Southside plan for Dia de los Muertos, Pruneda provided material to the manager from previous lectures he had done, he said. Like many people, Pruneda said, they came in without much knowledge of the history and tradition behind the holiday, but now will showcase it as authentically as possible.

“Wherever [people] are, there’s going to be cultures with different histories,” Pruneda said. “In New York or the East Coast, there’s probably going to be more of an influx of Irish or European celebrations versus celebrations on the West Coast, which has a lot of Mexican influence.”

Several of the student organizations will also give an introductory course about the holiday tonight, Pruneda said.

“It’ll be on why we celebrate the holiday,” Pruneda said. “People see it associated to Halloween because it’s so close, but it’s completely not. And then people will associate it as kind of a funeral, but it’s actually a celebration, which is really important to remember.”

The Dia de los Muertos celebration will take place from 5 – 7:30 p.m. tonight at Southside Cafe. The presentation about Dia de los Muertos will take place at 6 p.m. in the Ensminger Pavilion. Excluding the cost of food at the cafe, both events are free to attend.

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Dining hall celebrates Dia de los Muertos