MANHATTAN (KSNT) – Communities across northeast Kansas are celebrating “Día de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”.
The two-day tradition remembers and honors loved ones who have passed in a positive way, rather than mourning them.
“Remembering their loved ones, their memories, the way they impacted them and just how their memory still lives on,” Kansas State University director of diversity and multicultural student life, Kevin Santos Flores said. “And they can continue those practices and share those experiences with others.”
K-State’s Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) celebrated at the student union Thursday evening with food, a mariachi band and folkloric dancers.
“Instead of every year mourning for them, we are celebrating in their honor,” K-State HALO president Israel Quinonez said. “We are cherishing with them that at some point, they were with us. We had all the good times, all the good memories.”
Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow (HOTT), and organization based out of Emporia, Kansas, say the first day of the celebration, which takes place Nov. 1, typically includes setting up an altar with pictures and other memorabilia that serve as reminders of lost family members.
The second day, Nov. 2, is when families decorate their graves and share stories of their loved ones. Vania Espinoza, a graduate student at K-State who was formerly part of HALO, added there are several different ways to celebrate the tradition.
“Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, actually originated in Mexico,” Espinoza said. “And now it’s grown so much, that all the other countries and even here in the U.S., it’s like everybody puts a little piece of everything into it.”
Just down the road from K-State, businesses in Emporia are decorating their storefronts for Día de los Muertos.
Emporia’s main street is hosting a window decorating contest as part of its celebration, and many shops and restaurants are participating with offerings or ‘ofrendas’ and other items.
“Our friend, former bartender Tiffany Villa, she puts this all together for us,” Mulready’s pub co-owner Meghan Worthing said. “It’s part of her heritage and her background, and it kind of works really well. She doesn’t work here anymore, but she still comes in.”
The ofrenda at Mulready’s features photos of lost patrons and loved ones of employees. Worthing said this isn’t her personal history, but she’s beyond happy to be able to share it with others.
“We want them know that we want to celebrate with them and celebrate and appreciate that culture, that background,” Worthing said.
No matter how it’s celebrated, the tradition is meant to preserve this part of Hispanic culture.
“Even though it originated from Mexico and we, the Hispanics and Latin community, just celebrate it,” Espinoza said. “I feel like it’s something that everybody can partake in. I think it’s a lovely tradition, celebration since it has to do with our loved ones that have passed.”