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Spanish Club observes Day of the Dead with fellow VanCougs

The Spanish Club hosted their annual Day of the Dead event on Thursday, Nov. 7 at Washington State University Vancouver in the Firstenburg Student Commons. El Dia de los Muertos is a longstanding Hispanic tradition that honors loved ones passed. Guiselle Santacruz, psychology major and co-chair of the Spanish club, explained a brief history of the Day of the Dead celebrations. “It originated in Mexico from the Aztec civilizations. It is traditionally celebrated over two days, on Nov. 1 and 2.” Santacruz also said, “The first day is to celebrate the children and infants who have passed away, and the second is to celebrate the adults and elders who have passed.”

The event was open to both students and members of the community. To promote the event outside of campus, the Spanish Club placed flyers and promotional posters at various restaurants and other public places. The food was catered by La Costa, a Mexican restaurant that has a longstanding partnership with the Spanish Club.

After food was served, the Aztec dance troupe Mexica Tiahui performed a traditional Aztec dance that honored nature’s four elements: fire, water, air and Mother Earth. The dancers were traditionally dressed with elaborate headpieces complete with brightly colored, large feathers.

While the dancers performed, there was a craft for the children who attended the event to complete. Santacruz explained that the craft brings added cultural meaning to the event and said, “There were symbols, each with a specific meaning, that guests cut out and glued to a platform. After they had all their chosen symbols, they could decorate their platforms with rice and beans.” The platforms were the kids’ to keep as a souvenir of their Dia de los Muertos experience. After the dancers’ first performance, they invited students to join them and gave dance lessons. Rachel Tanner, accounting major and marketing director of the club, said “the troupe performed the dance then gave a dance lesson to everyone there. At the end of the event, attendees performed the traditional dance with the troupe. You may look silly but that’s part of the fun!”

The interest for the event was evident, as Day of the Dead costumes have been extremely popular for the last few years and many individuals have sugar skull tattoos. While the tradition has generated interest and is aesthetically pleasing, with bright colors and elaborate decorations, students and community members can greatly benefit from learning more about the beliefs and values this celebration holds.

The Day of the Dead event is held annually by the Spanish Club, and as Tanner said, “It’s what we are known for.”

Hayley McKenzie, elementary education major and finance/administration coordinator of the club, and Gregory Walker, English major and Spanish club member shared their thoughts as to why the event should be a sure thing for students each year. McKenzie said, “Free food and entertainment!” Walker said, “This event gives opportunity for students to experience a new culture and expand their horizons.” McKenzie also said, “The event is family friendly and provides a comforting atmosphere for guests to have fun! It might also be helpful in recruiting new members, as guests will get to see what the Spanish club does.”

For more information about the Dia de los Muertos event and other Spanish club happenings, email the Spanish club at spanclubrso@outlook.com.

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