At La Casa Latino Cultural Center, students visit and leave at their leisure to study, hang out or meet with others.
From 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, La Casa had over 200 visitors during its biggest event of the year: Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
With two altars, 200 tamales and several traditional activities, La Casa worked in collaboration with the First Nations Educational Cultural Center, the LGBTQ+ Center and the Canterbury house to celebrate this Latin American holiday. Each of these cultural centers had its own altar and activities too.
Ruby Flores, IU junior and chair of the Latinx Council, explained why exposure to cultural celebrations like Día de los Muertos are crucial to college students.
“A lot of people don’t know what it is and have assumptions of what (this holiday) could be,” Flores said. “This event is one of the first times where students get to experience all the cultural centers around us.”
One altar at La Casa, designed by Jessenia Barron-Cohen of Capital Planning and Services at IU, was purposefully neutral and welcomed dedications by students to loved ones who had died. It was adorned with ofrendas, or offerings, including cookies, treats, salt and water, as well as personal photographs and draped with colorful blankets.
The other altar at La Casa was dedicated to the victims of the recent shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Students were encouraged to move freely between the multiple cultural centers, each with its own personalized altar and activities in commemoration of Día de los Muertos.
At the Canterbury House, for example, students decorated candles to place on an altar in the chapel and pray or reflect in a quiet space.
Flores explained her personal appreciation for the event and for its history of collaboration with other organizations.
“Día de los Muertos is a day where I and many others get to celebrate in such an important and beautiful cultural event and experience,” Flores said. “Not only can people who come to this event experience Latino culture, but also gain cultural awareness.”
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