Holiday invites students to a diverse celebration

Photo by MCT

With the Latin American holiday of El Dia de los Muertos fast approaching, some Butler University students and Indianapolis institutions are preparing to celebrate the cultural heritage of Central Indiana’s Latino population.

El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican tradition that is celebrated in multiple forms across most of Latin America.

The celebration takes place on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, and, like All Soul’s Day, is held to bring the living closer to the memories of the deceased.

Junior biology major Kelsey Coy, president of Latinos Unidos, said that cultural events like this celebration are important for the Latino community as a way to preserve their vibrant heritage.

For students who are unfamiliar with this culture, Coy also said that the events  give you a window into the lives of Latinos in Indianapolis.

For the past 10 years the Indianapolis Art Center has been hosting a program for El Dia de los Muertos in order, according to its website, to “engage [Indianapolis] through a celebration of culture and tradition.”

This year the art center’s event takes place  Oct. 29 from noon to 5 p.m.

Butler University Residence Life is transporting students to and from the event, which is free.

More information can be found on Residence Life’s Facebook page about the event, “Dia de los Muertos!”

While All Soul’s Day is a day of passive remembrance, the Day of the Dead celebrations are vibrant and active.

Children craft altars and shrines for dead relatives, families make skeleton-shaped treats and communities gather for dancing and music.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census, almost 10 percent of the population of Marion County identifies themselves as Hispanic or Latino.

Coy attributed the data to the fact that Indianapolis offers many job opportunities and an accepting culture.

The Indianapolis Art Center’s Day of the Dead programming is an example of this acceptance.

“You can find celebrations of Dia de los Muertos in larger cities like Chicago and in many communities in the Southwest,” said Michelle Gunter, director of the Art Center. “It’s not as common here in the Midwest, so our celebration is really something for Indianapolis to be proud of.”

Coy said that while Butler itself is not very diverse—12 percent of freshmen in 2010 identified with being any ethnicity other than white, according to Butler’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program Freshman Survey— being attuned to other cultures is extremely important.

Coy said she hopes Latinos Unidos and local events such as the Dia de los Muertos celebration at the Indianapolis Art Center and FIESTA Indianapolis will encourage Butler students to be more involved in National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is going on right now.

Butler’s website said Latinos Unidos’ goal is to create awareness of Latino culture by getting students involved in social, educational, political and community outreach.

“There’s something very interesting happening here in Indianapolis,” Gunter said, “a blending of centuries-old traditions with new artistic interpretations of those traditions.”

For more information about joining Latinos Unidos, contact Coy at kccoy@butler.edu. The group is also sponsoring a speaker, Priscilla Ruiz Guillen, in Jordan Hall 141 at 7 p.m. today.

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