Arts & Humanities

Procession, Other Events Reminds us Life is Vibrant, But Death is Nearby

A tuxedoed Crescencio Lopez leads participants along campus sidewalks during the 2016 Day of the Dead procession. His wife, Christina Ledesma portrays La Catrina, the queen of death. This year's march, on Nov. 2, is open to all, with costume or not.

In some traditions, death would never show itself in vivid colors.

But at the procession marking the Day of the Dead, neon pink, emerald green and brilliant white
all dance together. It’s only when you look beneath the big-brimmed hats that you’ll see the death faces painted with a skeleton’s empty eyes and toothless grin.

This Mexican tradition, thousands of years old, will repeat its march on the Utah State University campus Nov. 2, as participants “welcome our ancestors who come back to visit us,” said Crescencio Lopez, assistant professor of Spanish.

The procession, open to students and community members alike, begins at 11: 30 a.m., starting at the block Aggie A near Old Main. Costumes, hats and fanciful makeup are all welcome at the free event.

The procession is part of a week-long celebration of the Mexican tradition Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

Other events, including those sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, include:

  • Monday, Oct. 30, and continuing through Nov. 3: An alter at the Museum of Anthropology will provide a place where visitors can bring mementos and offerings to remember loved ones who immigrated to Cache Valley.
     
  • Monday, Oct. 30: Face painting at the Museum of Anthropology with local artist Michelle Reyes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reyes will demonstrate her craft and display her work. The museum will also have a mask-making activity for visitors.
     
  • Thursday, Nov. 2: The Day of the Dead procession to honor and celebrate the dead, 11:30 a.m. beginning at the block A near Old Main.
     
  • Thursday, Nov. 2:  An altar in the TSC ballroom from 12 -7 p.m. set up by the Access and Diversity Center, with face painting, skull masks and arts and crafts 2-4 p.m.
     
  • Thursday, Nov. 2: A screening of a new documentary, “Logan iSomos tus Vencions!” (“Logan, We are your Neighbors”) at 6:30 in the TSC Ballroom. The documentary was created by students in Lopez’s classes and includes interviews with members of the local Latino community and new immigrants.

On Thursday, Nov. 2, the Day of the Dead procession will be led by La Catrina, the Mexican representation of death or, as Lopez calls her, the queen of death.

“It’s a celebration,” said Lopez. “But it’s also a reminder of the tension between life and death. It’s joyful, but also recognizes that we can become spirits any time.”

Lopez himself will portray La, the king of death, tall and dapper with a devil-may-care cigar dangling from his lips. If La Catrina is a reminder of ethereal life, said Lopez, her companion warns that death is “the ultimate equalizer.”

“He’s the rich person who is reminded that when he dies, he can take nothing with him,” he said. “He’s an empty suit.”

The now-annual procession was started three years ago by the student organization, Latinx Creative Society, with a group that included a half-dozen walkers. By year two, the company that walked a loop around campus, backed by mariachi music, had grown significantly. Lopez said he’s expecting a larger group this year, all the better to remind us of the tension between life and death.

If weather is uncooperative, Lopez said the day will be changed.

Contact: Janelle Hyatt, 435-797-0289, Janelle.hyatt@usu.edu

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