College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos at CSUMB Friday, November 1

Dia de los Muertos Event Schedule Friday, November 1, 2019, 5-8 pm:

  • 5:00-5:45 pm: Face painting at both the Student Center and VPA Building 70
  • 5:45-6:00 pm Aztec Dancers Procession at VPA Complex
  • 6:00-8:00 pm: Altar Presentations
  • Free and Open to the Public-Join Us!

When Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, arrives, family members of departed souls set out water, candles, food and decorated sugar skulls to welcome their lost loved ones. Widely celebrated in Latin America, the day honors the dead as living entities. It celebrates the departed, and helps keep them present in life.

The primary goal of the Day of the Dead here at CSUMB is to provide a community-building experience for students, the campus, and our surrounding communities. The event helps to break down isolation as it brings together in an active arts expression diverse members of our campus community. Because it takes place in a central space, it allows students who might not normally have the opportunity to interact to share in a collective expression of history and memory. The ceremony provides students a chance to learn arts traditions such as making sugar skulls, papel picado (paper cutting), flower arch preparation, and altar construction.

The annual Day of the Dead event includes a processional, large-scale altar, performing Aztec dancers, traditional Mexican refreshments, student artwork, a series of hands-on workshops, inter-disciplinary class presentations, and community youth projects. The event begins with face painting at the Student Center, followed by a candlelight processional with Aztec dancers, drummers, musical performances and folkloric dancers at the community gathering at the main altar at the VPA Complex (Buildings 71 & 72). This event also includes a collaborative altar comprised of work by students in classes across campus as well as altars made by students in the VPA Day of the Dead class. The main altar display provides the campus community with an opportunity to recognize the memory of their loved ones who have passed away and to find a joyful spirit of endurance in a difficult time.

The Day of the Dead celebration is part of an ongoing tradition begun in Meso-American times in Mexico. The traditions come from a cultural practice of honoring the dead through offerings, spectacle, and celebration. This celebration occurs on November 1, and includes altars and spiritual acts of remembrance. Since 1995, VPA has transformed this tradition into a contemporary cross-cultural ceremony of memory. Annually, the event draws between 200-300 participants from across the campus and regionally as a place for family-based gathering.

The curriculum of Day of the Dead offers a cross-cultural approach to community memory and engages the campus in community building. The celebration of this tradition exemplifies the vision of the University, and in particular, global interdependence, ethics, inter-disciplinarity, community service, and cross-culturalism. The event itself is a community-building experience, bringing together youth from our local communities, students, faculty, and staff.

Looking for other Dia de los Muertos events on and around campus?

More About the History of Dia de Los Muertos at CSUMB

Dia de los Muertos is a tradition at CSU Monterey Bay started nearly 25 years ago by now-retired Professor Amalia Mesa-Bains. In 2009, KQED, the Public Broadcasting System affiliate in San Francisco, filmed a story on the VPA class once taught by Dr. Mesa-Bains.