Aurora University students celebrate Day of Dead
In an annual Halloween season observance, Aurora University students recently erected a community Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) altar (ofrenda).
The display in Phillips Library, 315 S. Gladstone Ave. in Aurora is open to the public through Friday, Nov. 2. Admission and parking are free. Library hours are 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday.
Sponsored by AU's Latin American Student Organization, exhibit features sugar skulls, favorite foods and photos of departed relatives and friends.
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico around Halloween.
A descriptive poster at the exhibit reads, "This celebration is deeply rooted in indigenous communities in western Mexico (300-500 B.C.) that placed numerous objects in the tombs dug to bury their loved ones. These objects were meant to accompany and assist the soul on its journey into the next world.
"The ancient people of Mesoamerica prepared offerings to send off deceased members of their community. After the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the remembrance of the faithful departed was predominantly observed on All Saints and All Souls days Nov. 1 and 2.
"Today, offerings are placed on home altars to welcome back the souls of the deceased, while families visit the cemetery to clean the graves and pray for their annual return."
A common format for an ofrenda, altar, contains three levels or tiers. The topmost tier identifies the dead person who is being invited to the altar, frequently with photos of the deceased, along with, images of various saints, statuettes of the Virgin Mary, crucifixes and other objects positioned in a retablo which forms the back of the altar.
On the second tier are things placed to encourage the dead to feel at home and welcome: the deceased person's favorite food items, including such things as mole, candy, pan dulce, and especially a sweetbread called pan de muerto.
For deceased adults, the ofrenda might include a bottle or poured shot glasses of tequila or mezcal, while if the deceased is a child here might be placed a favorite toy. The bottommost tier almost always contains lit candles, and might also have a wash basin, mirror, soap, and a towel so that the supposed spirit of the deceased can see and refresh themselves upon arrival at the altar.
Throughout the altar are placed calaveras, decorated candied skulls made from compressed sugar and bright orange and yellow marigolds (cempazuchitl), an Aztec flower of the dead.