By JACOB LOPEZ
Sugar skulls, marigolds and pan de muerto are just part of the festivities that take place on Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, depending on the region.
The celebration takes place between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2.
Dr. Enriqueta Ramos of San Benito, a retired professor of Spanish and Chicano studies at Cypress College in California as well as Bilingual studies at the University of Texas at Brownsville, sees the importance of Dia de los Muertos. Ramos also believes in the importance of recognizing public figures such as Cesar Chavez, the civil rights activist best-known for his hunger strike protesting the wages of farm workers.
She has a Dia de los Muertos altar dedicated to Chavez, who some people still confuse for the retired Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, something she still finds “frustrating.”
Ramos chose to dedicate her altar to Chavez because she considers him her lifelong hero. She met him and joined in his protests, something she remains proud of to this day.
Altars are built during Dia de los Muertos to honor and celebrate the lives of those who died. They often include photos, personal belongings and remembrances.
According to artist Thaneeya McArdle, who runs and maintains the website celebrate-day-of-the-dead.com, “There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to decorating a Dia de los Muertos altar. The main idea is to decorate it in a way that honors the dead and reflects their character and personality.”
As Ramos said, the festivities are really a celebration of life rather than a celebration of death.
Those participating in the festivities often clean and decorate the gravesites of their loved ones, and the altars are just one aspect of Dia de los Muertos.
Ramos’ altar will be on display at the Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center, located at 225 E. Stenger St., Saturday, Nov. 1.