By Diego Linares
The 13th annual “Day of the Dead: Student Altars” exhibit, opening this Saturday, is a commemoration of influential Chicano/a public figures who have made a significant impact in the arts.
The exhibition is a display of altars and ofrendas (offerings) honoring those who have died.
Chicano/a Studies professor Angelita Rovero-Herrera is spearheading the upcoming event and says she sees the exhibit as a way of promoting the beauty, in order to counteract the negative connotations and stereotypes associated with the culture.
The exhibit and 5th annual Dia De Los Muertos Festival are both projects organized by Rovero-Herrera and funded by the Associated Student Union.
With the backing of ASU, the Chicano/a Studies professor boasted about the support received from the faculty, administration, students and community.
“East Los Angeles College walks on water,” said Rovero-Herrera. “I feel like this campus especially, is very pro-cultural. That’s why I’m doing the Dia de los Muertos Festival, because students care about culture.”
The exhibit is the result of five weeks of work that students in Rovero-Herrera’s Saturday Chicano/a arts class have had to research for and materialize.
Former ELAN and current California State University, Northridge student Lucy Baladez was a participant in the exhibit in 2013, and has since spent time helping students as a volunteer.
Baladez emphasized the importance of simply being able to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, mentioning how Chicano/a students in the ‘60s were not even able to speak spanish in classrooms
“It’s very important that as Chicanos, we understand our culture. Celebrating such an important tradition is huge. It reminds us of who we are, where we come from, and in the United States, Halloween is so big and people go all out for it, but we have to be able to embrace our culture,” said Baladez.
Baladez said that it’s important teach the youth about tradition through these exhibits in spite of the lack of people knowing the significance of Dia de los Muertos.
“It shows how far we’ve come as a culture and as a social movement,” said Baladez.
Rovero-Herrera says that the altars are a way to say that those who have passed away are not forgotten. Students have built a special connection with the people who have passed by being able to talk to and share with family members.
The Chicano/a Studies professor said Mary Cardona, mother of actor Annette Cardona who was known for her role as Cha Cha in “Grease,” was brought to tears upon visiting her daughter’s altar.
Rebeca Jimenez is one of the 17 ASU board members who approved the funding of the project and sees the exhibition and festival as a way to involve the community.
“When she (Rovero-Herrera) came with the proposal, I was 100 percent behind her,” said Jimenez. “It’s special when it’s on campus at our very own museum. You don’t have to go far to see your cultura (culture).”
The opening reception for “Day of the Dead: Student Altars” is this Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and will run until December 9 in the Community Focus Gallery at the Vincent Price Art Museum.