Anthropology Club Hosts Ninth Annual Día de Los Muertos Celebration

October 29, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Gloria Salinas

Thursday’s celebration of a historic Mexican tradition, hosted by SMU’s Anthropology club, marked the ninth year the organization has recognized the ancient Mexican holiday of Día de Los Muertos.

Martin Authier, SMU grad student and faculty in residence, organized the event in Heroy Hall in true Mexican fashion. The indigenous traditions of the holiday hold a joyous tone in celebrating the dead, including mockery and playfulness. The Anthropology Club party provided traditional Mexican soups and food, like tamales, and desserts, Mexican music and colorful decorations.

“Día de los Muertos is a joyous event,” Authier said. “It does not celebrate the death of those we love, but rather the continuing presence of our dearly departed in our lives.”

Día de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead,” is a tradition of celebrating the dead that holds very deep prehistoric roots. The traditional celebration took place in Mesoamerica around the 14th and 16th centuries with a month long celebration by the Aztecs. Under colonial Spanish control, the Aztec celebration was condensed to two days, corresponding to the Roman Catholic holy days of All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and All Soul’s Day on Nov. 2, according to Authier.

“In Anthropology we study cultures in general and the modern day Mexican culture is a well known example and case of ethnogenesis [combination of two cultures that form a new identity] that we like to celebrate,” Authier said.

The American celebration of Halloween is similar to the celebration of its neighbors to the south in that both are associated with the Catholic holy days of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, but the two holidays are based on very different traditions.

Leslie Redder, SMU Anthropology grad student, said, “Día de los Muertos is more focused on the celebration of loved ones that have passed rather than the scary aspect of death.”

The SMU Anthropology Club received funding from the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man as well as support from College Hispanic American Students who helped set up the event. The celebration is open to the public and next year will mark the Anthropology Club’s 10th annual celebration of Día de los Muertos.