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Students Celebrate Día de los Muertos

Colorful cloths, skeletons, and marigolds covered the fireplace at the front of the Leverett dining hall Saturday night as an altar for Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday held November 1 and 2 to remember deceased family and friends.

The celebration is the biggest event of the year for Harvard-Radcliffe RAZA.

“We’re using creativity and our culture to respect, honor, and remember those that came before us,” said RAZA officer Gabriella R. Herrera ’15, who said that her family celebrates Dia de los Muertos every year with prayers and candles. “I love that we all come together for a very good purpose.”

As Herrera laid out Mexican food, students grabbed plates and watched a performance by the dance group La Piñata. Children, who were dressed in bright orange and red t-shirts and skull masks, ran and danced to the beat of a drum.

Mariachi Veritas de Harvard took the stage next, followed by several students who read poems and sang.

Natalia M. Hendrickson ’15, who sang a song in Spanish to a hushed audience, said that her favorite part of the event was seeing people come together to share and celebrate the holiday.

“I think it’s important not to keep your grief inside,” she said.

President of RAZA Edward Escalon Jr. ’14 asked the audience to call out the names of loved ones that had passed, saying that those loved ones were there in the audience that night. After each name was called, the audience said “presente” to mark their presence.

Melissa A. Naidoo ’13 said that she had been to the RAZA celebration each year since she was a freshman.

“It’s always great coming each year and seeing the amount of talent showcased,” she said. “It has sacred roots and celebrates past loved ones—it’s not so much as mourning their passing, but celebrating their whole lives.”

Dressed in traditional attire and balancing candles on their head, the Ballet Folklórico de Aztlán ended the series of performances with a folk dance.

After the performances, students ended the evening by eating traditional sweetened buns called pan de muertos­—bread of the dead—and painting their faces like skeletons.

—Staff writer D. Simone Kovacs can be reached at dkovacs@college.harvard.edu.

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