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El Dia de los Muertos exhibits
El Dia de los Muertos exhibits
El Dia de los Muertos displays at ITC

UTSA Tri-campuses to celebrate 'Day of the Dead'

By James Benavides
Public Affairs Specialist

(Oct. 31, 2007)--The UTSA Tri-Campus community will observe El Dia de los Muertos, the traditional Day of the Dead celebration, with displays and activities at the UTSA Tri-campuses on Nov. 2, the Christian feast of All Souls Day. El Dia de los Muertos is a way to celebrate the lives of deceased relatives and friends. In the Hispanic tradition, as long as the departed are remembered, they are never truly gone.

El Dia de los Muertos usually involves preparing an altar (or "ofrenda") dedicated to the memory of a loved one. Various artifacts are placed on the altar including candles, religious emblems, salt, water, calaveras (sugar skulls), incense, marigold flowers, photos and other items that may have been associated with the deceased in life, such as sunglasses, tools or jewelry.

At UTSA's Institute of Texan Cultures, educational specialist and floor manager Willie Mendez has prepared the altar for the past 10 years. This year, it is dedicated to the memory of deceased ITC staff members, docents and friends.

In addition to the traditional altar, ITC educational specialist Patti Dunn continues to research the contemporary evolution of the holiday and its re-emergence with the help of Chicano artist Joe Lopez and photographer Pedro Ruiz. Their findings are shared in a new ITC documentary, "Imagenes en Transicion: The Evolution of Contemporary Imagery in El Dia de los Muertos," which is incorporated into the exhibit.

The ITC Dia de los Muertos exhibit is free and open to the public, but does not include admission to the main floor. UTSA students, faculty and staff are admitted free with UTSACard. The exhibit runs Oct. 11-Nov. 4.

At the UTSA Downtown Campus, the Office of Student Activities invited students, faculty, staff and organizations to prepare altars for display in the Durango Building student activities center. They will be on display through Nov. 5. Altars on display include a tribute to the late Sen. Greg Luna and altars by UTSA Downtown Campus Facilities Services, Catholic Students Association and the Mexican-American Studies student organization.

At the 1604 Campus, altars are on display Oct. 31-Nov. 2 at the University Center galleria, sponsored by the Inclusion and Community Engagement Center and student organizations. At 10 a.m. Nov. 2, Pan de Muerto, the traditional Mexican sweetbread baked for El Dia de los Muertos, will be served at the University Center galleria near the altars.

A UTSA College of Architecture class received an invitation from the Museo Alameda to participate in a Dia de los Muertos observance by designing and building the structure for the museum's altar on Market Square. It is one of the museum's first community collaborations and its first with UTSA.

Students from lecturer Curtis Fish's visual communications class designed and installed the pyramid-like cardboard structure for the museum's "Dia de los Muertos: Honoring our Heroes" exhibition, which opens Nov. 2. The altar will remain through Veterans Day, Nov. 11, drawing together the two distinct cultural celebrations. For more information, visit the Museo Alameda Web site.

In addition to the Nov. 2 Feast of All Souls, the Catholic community celebrates the Feast of All Saints on Nov. 1. In observance, the Catholic Students Association will conduct two All Saints Day masses, 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the Durango Building student activities center, UTSA Downtown Campus, and 7-8 p.m. at the St. Anthony Catholic Center on Roadrunner Way.

For more information on El Dia de los Muertos celebrations, visit the Institute of Texan Cultures Web site or contact the Office of Student Activities, Downtown Campus, at (210) 458-2816 or the Inclusion and Community Engagement Center at (210) 458-4770.

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