Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
November 30, 2023

Celebration of el Día de los Muertos and Mexican culture on campus

By NICK DAUM | November 11, 2023



Mexican, Hispanic and non-Hispanic students come together to celebrate the Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos and contribute to the second annual community Ofrenda.

This year’s el Día de los Muertos celebration at Hopkins cut across venues and days over the course of Nov. 1 and 2. The events were organized by Multicultural Affairs and the Mexican American Student Association (MASA) and included a two-day long community ofrenda and an el Día de los Muertos Celebration on Nov. 2.

El Día de los Muertos is a day of remembrance of the dead in Mexican tradition, while the ofrenda acts as the offering placed on home altars during the celebration. Junior Cynthia Sanchez Hidalgo, an intern at Multicultural Affairs and the main organizer of the ofrenda at Hopkins, spoke about the history of this event in an interview with The News-Letter.

“This is our second annual community ofrenda, and we’re very excited to be celebrating Día de los Muertos,” she said. “We had our first one last year and had a big turnout; a lot of people came to celebrate. We were happy to see [how] the community came here, put their own pictures on the altar and remembered their loved ones. So, we decided to bring it back this year.”

Besides the community ofrenda, the event this year included a variety of activities such as picture framing, sugar skull painting and spirit animal (alebrijes) coloring. Catered Mexican food was also provided, including tamales and empanadas. Additionally, a documentary on how Dia de los Muertos is celebrated across Mexico was shown. 

In an interview with The News-Letter, sophomore Miriam Medina, who attended the events hosted by Multicultural Affairs, expressed how attending the celebration was a good opportunity to reconnect with her culture away from home. 

“This is a really good way to remember my ancestors, my loved ones,” she said. “It builds a little community, and it's really good that they bring food and they try to be as authentic as possible for the tradition. At Hopkins there's no Mexican food, so being brought a little makes me feel at home.”

Medina was also pleased that non-Mexican students attended the event. She was glad people felt welcome to celebrate in this tradition. 

Hidalgo commented on how, prior to last year, there was no el Día de los Muertos celebration at Hopkins. By working within the Multicultural Affairs organization, she was able to plan both last year’s and this year’s events. She also encouraged other students to organize their own events in the future. 

“Two years ago, around the holidays, I realized that no one really had anything planned for [el Día de los Muertos]. Working here in Multicultural Affairs gives me the opportunity to start a new project like this, so I went to my bosses. They were really supportive,” she said. “If any students ever feel like that or that there's something particular that they're missing, they can feel free to come over here and give us ideas and we can try to put something together.”

Meanwhile, MASA also hosted a celebration in Levering Hall on Nov. 2 where students enjoyed bread and champurrado — traditional hot chocolate. In addition, there were arts and crafts tables and a face paint station.

In an interview with The News-Letter, Senior Epifania Ortiz, the president of MASA, commented on her cultural connection to el Día de los Muertos and its importance to the Hopkins campus.

“For me, it's one of the holidays my [culture] celebrates that we don’t really do at home. So it’s very personal for me,” she said. “Also, it's one of the few visible Hispanic, and especially Mexican-centered, holidays. I'm glad that we can bring it to campus in a bigger way [this year].”

Ortiz felt that since the release of the movie Coco, people have become more informed on Mexican tradition, especially el Día de los Muertos. She also expressed happiness with the high number of participants this year that surpassed last year’s turnout.

Similarly to make-up of students that attended the Multicultural Affairs events, many non-Mexican and non-Hispanic students were present in Levering Hall, including freshman Ryan Randolph. In an interview with The News-Letter, Randolph stated that she was impressed by how welcoming and kind the community was in Levering.

“I actually heard [about the event] from one of my Mexican friends, so I thought that I should go,” she said. “It's so nice here, and I especially like the community here. Everybody's just so friendly.”

Levering Hall was packed with students until the event ended at 9 p.m. Many students remained and carried on conversations, holding cups of champurrado and crochet flowers.

Junior Maria Reyes also attended the el Día de los Muertos celebrations hosted by MASA. She reflected upon the social aspect and rich history of the celebration in an interview with The News-Letter.

“It's an opportunity for people to get along. It's also important to know the tradition, the history behind this tradition,” she said. “We're celebrating the belief that people still live after they die, so we're recognizing that they are still a big part of our lives even if they pass.”

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