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Rollins celebrates El Día de los Muertos

Gaby Davenport
Festivities were marked by framed photos of deceased loved ones, food, and colorful decor

The patio of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum was adorned with framed photos and a colorful papel picado banner as members of the Rollins community gathered to honor their deceased ancestors in the celebration of El Dia de los Muertos, aka the Day of the Dead.

Rollins students gathered alongside the anthropology and Spanish departments, as the Latin American & Caribbean Studies Department at Rollins hosted Rollins’ 11th annual celebration of Dia de los Muertos. 

The celebration mirrored the celebrations of Latin American countries, featuring refreshments, authentic Latin American food, like tamales, and an altar upon which participants were encouraged to display photographs of their deceased loved ones.

“Residents of these countries believe that the spirits of their deceased loved ones return to join the living on Nov. 1 and 2, and so they build altars to them in their home featuring their favorite things,” said Dr. Ashley Kistler, department chair and associate professor of anthropology. 

In many Latin American communities, Dia de los Muertos represents the belief that ancestors’ spirits do not die, but rather move on to the afterlife. The origins of this holiday celebrate and combine Catholic beliefs with the indigenous traditions of Central Mexico. “Dia de los Muertos is a way to remind people about their ancestors and their importance in local culture,” said Kistler.

The Rollins community continues to familiarize students with global citizenship through celebrations of various cultural traditions and holidays, including Dia de los Muertos. Rollins continues to celebrate this holiday because, as Kistler said, “It showcases the beauty of this Latin American holiday and the Latin American community on our campus in the Central Florida community. We feel that celebrating cultural events is an important part of our Latin American and Caribbean studies program.”

Not only was there a great gathering of the Rollins community, but Kistler estimates that roughly 40 photographs, including her personal photos of loved ones and those of the Rollins community, were added to the altar. 

“I have always been passionate about Latin American and Caribbean culture. It is great to observe cultural practices, especially here at Rollins,” said Mackenzie Penco (‘22). 

Kistler expressed hope that Rollins students “understand that the holiday is not a scary one but a beautiful one that celebrates ancestors and their role in contemporary cultural practice. I’d also like them to understand the historical and cultural importance of the holiday and to know that they can join us every year in this celebration.”

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