Nov 032009

As Rich Salas, assistant director of CSU’s El Centro, strummed a song on his guitar he said: “Think of someone in your life that has passed, and think about the good things they have left. That’s where I think we get our strength from.”

As lyrical music filled the air, people in the Lory Student Center’s Grey Rock Room remembered their late loved ones.

“Enjoy the song and enjoy the memories of those you will be thinking of,” Salas said.

Tuesday, ASAP, El Centro, Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity and CSU students celebrated el Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that honors and remembers relatives and loved ones who have passed away.

El Día de los Muertos, celebrated on Nov. 2, the same day Catholics celebrate All Souls Day, dates back to the pre-Colombian and Catholic roots, as many as 3,000 years ago.

“The pre-Hispanic people honored duality as being dynamic. They didn’t separate death from pain or wealth from poverty,” Salas said. “Death was seen as part of the life cycle and was not to be feared.”

When the Spaniards arrived in Mesoamerica, they were confused by the indigenous people who seemed to mock death and refused to fear it, accepting death as part of the cycle of life. After trying to convert the Aztecs to Catholicism, a mixture of the two cultures ensued, creating Day of the Dead, Salas said.

There are many ways to celebrate the holiday, but often times, altars are decorated with candles, flowers and sugar skulls — the sugar representing life and the skull representing death.

Salas explained that the belief is that the spirits would come back and visit the loved ones that honored them.

“(The Day of the Dead) is definitely one of the most culturally significant holidays in Latin America,” Bobby Lefebre, a spoken-word artist from the Denver area said, referring to the alter he and his wife put up in their home to remind them that their deceased family members and friends are still with them.

Lefebre then performed in spoken word, similar to poetry, talking about the Day of the Dead and other unrelated topics including social stereotypes and celebrity lifestyles compared with the average person.

Brittiany Urban, a freshman human development and family studies major, described his words as “all-inspiring.”

“I was touched and dumbfounded, it blew everything into perspective,” Urban said, referring to Lefebre’s performance.

Quetzalcoatl, a local Fort Collins Aztec Dance group, then took the floor, dancing in hopes of preserving and spreading an understanding of the holiday.

Once the dances had concluded, the remainder of the time was given to people who wanted to share memories or honor loved ones who have passed.

Gabriel Barela, a senior psychology and political science major and member of Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity, said that he was happy with the event.

I thought it was great. It was very educational, and it’s a good way for people who aren’t always exposed to different cultures to see why we celebrate (el Día de los Muertos), Barela said.

“(The Day of the Dead) is spent really remembering the impact (loved ones) have made on my life,” Barela said. “It’s more of a celebration of life.”

Staff writer Justyna Tomtas can be reached at

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