‘Day of the Dead’ altars captivate East LA College

HAND IN HAND—Xipe Totec Aztec dance members invite children from the Child Development Center to join them for the friendship dance at the first festival for Dia de los Muertos between the S1 and S2 buildings on Thursday morning. CN/Megan Perry

By Erik Luna


In the spirit of “Dia de los Muertos,” the Vincent Price Art Museum’s Community Focus room was decorated with various altars that memorialized those who have died.

The altars, which were created by the Chicano Studies 7 class and will be on display until Nov. 21, opened last Thursday as the Chicana/o Studies Department held their “Dia de los Muertos Festival.”

Although this is the first festival for the day of the dead, the student-made altars have been an annual event for the past nine years. Angelita Rovero-Herrera, who is a Chicana/o Studies instructor at East Los Angeles College, had her students create the altars from selected course-related topics.

“(My curriculum) helps emphasize independent research, group participation and the creative process,” Rovero-Herrera said. Some of the students that made the altars were present to explain the concepts behind them.

“We wanted to keep it more traditional and still keep it religious at the same time,” Elan Delina Aros said. “The first part is for kids…the second part is for adolescents and the third part is for adults,” Aros said about her group’s three-tiered altar.

On the altars, students placed certain objects that their loved ones liked. Sisters Nena and Amelia Hernandez said that each object that is placed on the altar was significant to those who had died.

“That’s why we placed bread, tequila, cigarettes and candles,” Amelia said. “(Those) were the things they liked,” she continued.

Marta Perez, a Chicana/o Studies student said that in her home country of El Salvador they remember the dead by going to the cemetery.

Perez said that each culture celebrates it differently. Salvadorians celebrate it differently than Mexicans.

Outside the museum, crowds of people gathered to watch performances by Xipetotec, Conjunto Hueyapan, Quetzal and Ixtli Yolotl.

Children from the Child Development Center were brought to the festival to enjoy the performance of Xipototec, an Aztec dancing troup.

“We celebrate these two days to honor the dead. Today is for the children and tomorrow is for the adults,” Lazaro Arvizo, the leader of Xipototec, said.

The children were then asked to dance with the group. Forming a giant circle, the children began to dance and laugh.

Muralist Manny Velasquez erected an altar outside of the museum in the S2 performing arts courtyard. Velasquez hand made his skull decorations with papermache.

MEChA de ELAC and the Chicana/o Studies Department also sold food as part of a fundraiser. MEChA sold tamales and “aguas frescas,” also known as fresh fruit water, and the Chicano Studies class sold “Pan Dulce,” or sweetbread, and “Pan de Muerto”, more commonly known as dead man’s bread.

The altars at the Vincent Price Art Museum will be on display until Nov. 21. The museum is open Monday through Saturday. For hours visit http://vincentpriceartmuseum.org/.

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