Campus event brings community together to honor dead and celebrate life

On Nov. 1, the Whatcom Community College Office of Student Life and Development and the Simpson Intercultural Center hosted a Dia De Los Muertos event in Syre Student Center Auditorium.

“It’s a celebration of life and remembering those who have gone into another life. It’s a celebration of those that have passed,” said Whatcom Community College student Magaly Aguayo.

Student shows off her "calavera" face paint
Magaly Aguayo shows off her “calavera” face paint at the Dia De Los Muertos event at Whatcom Community College Nov. 1. Photo by David Loudon.

Día de los Muertos is a mesoamerican holiday that honors the dead and celebrates life. The holiday is traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1-2 and involves the gathering of family and friends, food, music, and iconically the display of “ofrendas.” 

Remembrances for lost loved ones at the Dia De Los Muertos event at Whatcom Community College Nov. 1. Photo by David Loudon.

“Ofrendas, or altars, are a place to put up pictures and offerings for past loved ones,” Aguayo said.

Then Whatcom event included a communal altar on which to place mementos of loved ones or family members.

“It’s nice to see the pictures of people being remembered and it’s nice to see the gifts being given,” said Whatcom Professor Joanna Kenyon.

Kenyon has attended this event a few times. Her favorite parts of the evening were the altars and the dancers.

After dinner, provided by California Tacos and Sol de Mexico, there were performances by Cueponcayotl, a Seattle-based group that performed Aztec dance via video; Chicas Reinas, a “baile folklorico”, or folkloric dance group; and Ernesto Torres, who performed live music.

Chicas Reinas performed in the traditional attire for folk dances of Mexico; the green of the dresses historically represents the land and the white represents the souls of the people.

“It’s about showing roots, culture, and tradition,” said Christina Facundo who was leading the group at the event. “We’re a multigenerational group…we’re able to pass traditions onto the next generation.”

Folkloric dance group
Folkloric dance group Chicas Reinas perform at the Dia De Los Muertos event at Whatcom Community College Nov. 1. Photo by David Loudon.

Many of the performers have multiple generations of their family involved in the group, including Facundo whose granddaughter performed alongside her.

“It’s a chance for the girls to be able to practice a live performance and get all decked out,” Facundo said.

Ernesto Torres, a local musician, was the last performer of the night. Although he generally plays “banda norteña” he noted in Spanish to the crowd, “Vamos a tocar algo unico: Rock & Roll.” (We’re going to play something unique: Rock & Roll.) He performed La Plaga by the seminal Mexican rock group Los Teen Tops in addition to Elvis Presley covers originally interpreted into Spanish by the same group. At the end of his set, he received calls for an encore from the crowd, which he obliged. 

“The performers are beautiful, colorful and wonderful,” Kenyon said.

Two girls standing shoulder to shoulder
Isabella Hanson (left) and Jessica Gambito (right) with Shuksan Middle School Multicultural Club attending the Dia De Los Muertos event at Whatcom Community College. Photo by David Loudon.

The event had been planned since August and marked the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic that the show occurred in person. “The pressure was on,” Aguayo said about organizing the event.

Jessica Gambito, a staff member at Shuksan Middle School attending with Shuksan’s Multicultural Club, enjoyed the event.

“Everything’s very colorful and bright. It’s really cool to see the whole community come together,” Gambito said.

“It’s really beautiful,” said Isabella Hanson, who is also a Shuksan student. “There’s a lot of culture.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *