Celebrating El dia de los Muertes

An East Campus student performs a representation of the reputedly true legend of La Llorona (The Weeping Woman). Aztec Press photo by Stephanie Missouri.



There are many ways that Tucsonans celebrate the holidays this time of year, but Pima Community College has made a niche in the community with a celebration all its own.

At East Campus, students participate in setting up an altar, making special food and beautiful entertainment for El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead.

“We set up an altar to escort them back,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, a 19-year-old PCC student.

Dia de los Muertos is “where the dead can come and visit us for one or two days of the year.  They’re here – they’re here right now.”

East Campus Spanish Club president Kelly Fitzpatrick, 19, joins the celebration. Aztec Press photo by April George.

In addition to the altar celebration, PCC students also scheduled folklorico dancers and a mariachi band and baked a traditional Dia de los Muertos bread called Pan de Muerte (Bread of the Dead).

They also and handed out what Fitzpatrick referred to as “valentines for the dead” in the form of small sugar skulls decorated with colorful frosting.

Karina Ramos, 17, one of the dancers at the celebration, has been performing folklorico for five years. She describes Dia de los Muertos as “a Mexican celebration where they celebrate the dead.”

Ramos takes great pride in the opportunity to dance folklorico. “It’s an honor to dance,” she said.  “I forget about everything and just be in the moment and enjoy dancing and being healthy and fit.”

Luvy Nuanes, a Spanish instructor and founder of the El Dia de los Muertos celebration at PCC, adjusts offerings on a student-created altar. Aztec Press photo by Stephanie Missouri.

The celebration is made possible by the hard work and dedication of PCC Spanish teacher Luvy Nuanes. She has been celebrating Dia de los Muertos for 12 years at Pima and says that the holiday is “a beautiful tradition that I’m going to keep when I go back to my country when I retire.”

Originally from Nicaragua, Nuanes was not aware of such a holiday but says, “I fell in love with the celebration…I fell in love right away.”

Of Dia de los Mertos she says, “This is how we celebrate death. Death for us is not an end road; it is a new beginning of a new life.”

Pan de Muerte, or Bread of the Dead, is a traditional offering. Aztec Press photo by Stephanie Missouri.

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