Cedar City unites to celebrate their ancestors during Day of the Dead celebrations

During the week of Oct. 31 through Nov. 5, Southern Utah University and the Cedar City community celebrated Día de los Muertos, translated from Spanish to Day of the Dead, a Mexican tradition that celebrates and honors ancestors.

Various SUU and Cedar City organizations—including the Latinx Student Alliance, International Student Ambassadors, Tradition Keepers and the Southern Utah Museum of Art—held activities throughout the week, each with several activities traditional to this holiday.

On the evening of Nov. 2, the Latinx Student Alliance held a Día de los Muertos celebration in the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. There, students enjoyed music and dancing as well as a cookie decorating contest. The cookies were shaped like skulls, a symbol for the Day of the Dead. Students enjoyed additional refreshments such as chips and conchas, a popular Mexican sweetbread.

The following day, Nov. 3, a Day of the Dead showcase was held in the Student Center Living Room, hosted by LSA, Tradition Keepers and ISA. The room was decorated with “papel picado,” decorative paper banners cut out into a variety of patterns. Visitors could learn about the history and traditions of Día de los Muertos through a video presentation and an “ofrenda,” a commemorative altar decorated with photos, candles, flowers and food offerings. They could also enjoy refreshments of chips and salsa, conchas, Jarritos—a Mexican soda—and a variety of Latin American sweets. 

While those who celebrate the Day of the Dead usually decorate sugar skulls, SUU students were invited to paint plastic skulls and to craft “cempasúchil”—also known as marigolds—out of tissue paper. Members of the LSA dance team also performed a number for the guests.

The final and largest event was held on Nov. 5 at the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts. The Día de los Muertos: Honoring Our Ancestors event was open to people of all ages. From children to college students to grandparents, people filled the area, enjoying a wide range of activities available throughout the afternoon. Several guest performers showcased in the SUU Auditorium, including all-female band Mariachi Rosas Divinas and dance group Ballet Folklórico. Several stalls were placed along Eccles Avenue, including food and art vendors, storytellers, face paint, stands decorated in flowers and pictures of ancestors, and more.

Outside the SUMA entrance, visitors could decorate skull-shaped sugar cookies. The inside entrance of SUMA was decorated as a large ofrenda, covered in pictures of several community members’ ancestors. Those who did not have pictures were invited to add cards with names of people they wished to honor. Inside the museum, guests crafted tissue paper marigolds and “calavera”—skull—masks out of paper plates, popsicle sticks and glue.

Celebrating this holiday throughout the week gave the opportunity for the community to come together and learn from each other, as well as commemorate each others’ traditions. 

“I thought it was amazing,” said LSA dance team member Keytbelle Gutierrez-Monroy. “It made me feel at home, and I felt a lot of unity with Cedar City. It was just really nice, and I loved it.”

Article by: Andrea Rodgers
Photos by: Devan Call and Andrea Rodgers