It was a community celebration of Dia de los Muertos on Saturday at College Park.
Dia de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” originated in Mexico. It involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died and support their spiritual journey.
Awareness of Dia de los Muertos has grown in recent years, especially with the release of the popular Disney movie “Coco.”
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the annual celebration commemorates the transitory return to Earth of deceased relatives and loved ones.
In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans see it not as a day of sadness, but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them.
Dia de los Muertos saw quite the celebration Saturday. There was a catrina/catrin contest as children and families dressed up in colorful attire. The Mexican Dance Academy of Nebraska of Omaha was on hand to perform Mexican folk dances.
There were many Altar de Muertos. The ofrenda, or offering, is a collection of objects placed on a ritual display during the Día de los Muertos celebration. The traditional altars can be large and elaborate. They are created for a person who has died and are intended to welcome them to the altar setting.
Along with personal mementos of the deceased, candles are placed on the altars, along with food, such as sweet bread (pan de muerto) and fruits, decorative sugar skulls, and water to quench the thirst of the dead being honored.
Veterans at Central Community College created an altar for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in defense of freedom.
There was also food, including the pan de muerto, which is a Mexican pastry made for Dia de los Muertos. The bread can take on different shapes, such as angels, bones or animals.
One of the prominent symbols of Dia de los Muertos throughout College Park Saturday were the many decorative calavera, which is a representation of a human skull. Children of all ages were having the colorful calavera hand-painted on their faces or getting a temporary tattoo. Also, as a craft, the kids were created calavera de azucar, which are skulls made out of sugar and decorated with colorful icing. They are used to decorate Day of the Dead altars.
This is the second year Dia de los Muertos was sponsored by CCC, along with the college’s Multicultural Resource Center. Last year, the event was held at the CCC campus but moved to College Park to allow the event to expand and grow.
Catherine Bergin, an administrative assistant at CCC and the Multicultural Resource Center, helped coordinate the event. Also present were about 50 members of the Lambda Theta NU sorority, who came to Grand Island from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Lincoln, and Omaha campuses.
“It is a Mexican tradition to celebrate those who have died,” Bergin said. “It is a way of remembering and honoring them. Some say it is a chance for them to come out and have a little fun.”
One of the reasons she said CCC decided to sponsor Dia de los Muertos was to bring awareness of this Mexican cultural tradition to the Grand Island community.
“It was a way to bring the community, the students and staff to celebrate this together,” Bergin said.
Dia de los Muertos is a three-day event, which runs from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2. Friday was All Saints Day, which honors the children and infants, and Saturday was All Souls Day, which honors the adults.
Bergin said Grand Island is a multicultural community. The Grand Island Literacy Council has said there are more than 30 different languages spoken in Grand Island.
Bergin said the Multicultural Resource Center at CCC started in January. The center develops programming to better serve CCC students.
“We are working to increase awareness of the diversity that exists at our college,” she said.