Remembering, Paying Tribute — the Art of Dia de Los Muertos

  • A procession of students and faculty members, wearing masks and makeup, carries colorful flower wreaths and banners for Noche de Ofrendas.

    A procession embarks from CSUN's Jerome Richfield Hall, kicking off Noche de Ofrendas at the CSUN Chicano House on Nov. 2, 2023.

  • A faculty member knees down, looking at a small ofrenda (altar) on an easel.

    A faculty member at Noche de Ofrendas looks at a student's work at the Chicano House on Nov. 2, 2023.

  • A student dressed all in black stands inside the Chicano House, looking at a large ofrenda (altar) covered in colorful art, papel picado and photos.

    A student looks at an ofrenda (altar) at the annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration, Nov. 3, 2023, inside the CSUN Chicano House.

  • A woman looks at more than a dozen paintings on canvas and posters, as well as ofrendas, set up on the lawn outside the Chicano House.

    A community member takes in the artwork on display for Dia de Los Muertos outside the CSUN Chicano House on Nov. 3, 2023.

  • Dancers in traditional folklorico (folk dancing) costumes perform on the Chicano House Lawn.

    Folklorico dancers perform traditional dances at the Dia de Los Muertos celebration at the Chicano House on Nov. 3, 2023.

  • A woman holds her child on her lap, kneeling on the Chicano House lawn -- while a large crowd of people in the background record a performance on their phone.

    Students, faculty, alumni and community members watch Dia de Los Muertos performers at the CSUN Chicano House on Nov. 3, 2023.

CSUN’s Chicano House hosted its annual two-night celebration for Dia de los Muertos this month. Nov. 2 was Noche de Ofrendas (Night of Offerings), an evening of remembrance. Nov. 3, Dia de Les Muertos, was a night of celebration, culture and community. The holiday isn’t about mourning, but a celebration of those who have passed. It’s a day of remembrance and especially healing, according to student and faculty organizers.

An important element of Dia de los Muertos is art, which is featured at ofrendas (altars) set up for loved ones –so their spirits can return during the holiday. Photographs are common elements on altars, used to welcome ancestors back to the living. The brightly colored papel picado — colorful, perforated tissue-paper banners — is an important element of the holiday, said to represent the fragility of life. Any movement of the paper, according to tradition, signals the arrival and presence of loved ones at the ofrenda. Every piece of art on the ofrendas gives the creator a chance to reflect the personality of the lost loved one.

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