Day of the Dead festival returns to UNI



Students from the Multicultural Theatrical Society offer a chance for students and faculty to learn more of the celebration of Day of the Dead.


The Multicultural Theatrical Society (MTS) will host the Day of the Dead festival at the Bertha Martin Theater on Friday, Oct. 21 from 5-7 p.m. This event intends to honor the Latin community on campus, giving them the space to celebrate and share a holiday that honors one’s culture, heritage and traditions. At the same time, giving students the chance to engage and learn about other cultures, promoting inclusivity and growth in the community. Most importantly though it intends to serve as an event to honor and celebrate the dead.

“This is our second annual Day of the Dead event. We hope to educate the community and provide a space for Hispanic and Latino students to celebrate their culture in a way that is healthy and also helps to educate others. We especially hope to give everyone a space to celebrate their loved ones,” Co-Vice President of MTS, Julie Matta said.

To celebrate on campus, MTS will have food, music and many interactive stations that are taken from some of the traditional Day of the Dead practices. Students may find themselves indulging in activities such as a family remembrance string pin wall, remembering the dead letters and more. This event will help students and faculty explore how other cultures honor and celebrate the dead.

“We are trying to include everybody and make it as least intimidating as possible while also making sure we honor what the Day of the Dead is all about. It would be difficult to visit all of our ancestors’ graves and honor them in that way, so we tried to do activities that brought similar energy while still celebrating,” Matta said.

Another activity to take place is skull painting and coloring. One of the most recognizable symbols of the Day of the Dead is sugar skulls. These skulls are often made of a sugar mixture and pressed into molds to create the skull. They are then decorated with bright colors and often the name of a loved one drawn onto it. The skulls sometimes represent a loved one who has passed and can be placed on an ofrenda, a kind of altar used to honor the dead.

“Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration of life and death, seeing honor living through traditions and heritage. It was really important to me growing up to see my parents celebrate those who came before them. It may only be one day but it feels bigger than that. Being a Latina woman on this campus, not a lot of people look like me so having the honor of carrying my ancestors with me is important,” Matta said.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated across Central, Latin and South America from Nov. 1-2. It is a celebration of the dead where families honor their loved ones with ofrendas, a kind of altar, with various foods, photos, marigold flowers and anything the dead loved to make them feel welcome and at home. 

All UNI students and faculty are encouraged to attend this event to celebrate the Day of the Dead and learn more about this celebration and honor the dead.

“It’s also our celebration for MTS to show our community, just how culturally diverse and theatrical we are, and really to share its beauty with everyone, not just those who practice it,” said Matta.“Moving forward It’s important to continue amplifying diverse voices. Often individuals of color don’t see much of themselves in these spaces, like higher education. It’s also important to have these events to allow space for these individuals to celebrate their culture as well as grow the community as a whole. It brings an inclusive and positive culture to our campus.”