“Everything I know about Día de los Muertos I learned while living in Mexico.

In Oaxaca and Michoacán, two states with deeply rooted Muertos traditions, I saw how lifelong practitioners dressed their ofrenda altars with precise additions according to the fancies of the departed person being honored: a plate of mole, just so; a specific reposado tequila, served neat; a certain brand of those tiny filterless cigarettes that are still sold down south. Everything had meaning, and a place in the spiritual order of the altar itself. …

In homes where the original practice is followed, preparations begin long before the actual celebration days of Nov. 1 and 2. With nightfall on Nov. 1 a bridge opens to allow a brief unification of the living and the dead. It’s visitation night for the residents of Mictlan, the underworld.

The holiday has roots dating back 3,000 years, said artist and scholar Martha Ramirez-Oropeza, who teaches a sought-after course on Día de los Muertos in the Chicano studies program at UCLA. “You can feel it as a deeper layer, that goes from pre-Hispanic times, to contemporary times, because when you see an ofrenda, you see parts of the history of Mexico.”

This week, Ramirez-Oropeza built ofrendas with students and participants at the longtime Venice arts center SPARC, and on the UCLA campus. Many of her students do not have Latino backgrounds, a sign that a custom centered on honoring one’s ancestors resonates with all of us. ”

Indeed, everyone from your local UCLA student to councilmember Mike Bonin joined in, in our 17th annual Día de los Muertos celebration and ritual. This October 27th SPARC partnered with Professor Martha Ramirez-Oropeza and over 100 UCLA students to honor the memories of those who have passed on. Students will built intricate altars that represent Día de los Muertos traditions of various regions of Mexico and Central America. Professor Ramirez-Oropeza will led an invocation ritual in Nahuatl, Spanish and English that calls the spirits to join the celebration. A celebration that included the LA Rams Mariachi Band, Pio Pico Middle School and Kamikaze Beat Band and many of you.

(The beginning of this article is an excerpt from the article “Why Everyone needs a Day of the Dead?” by Daniel Hernandez. To read the full article, please go to the LATimes Website.)

 

View a glimpse of the celebration here: