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Día de los Muertos: Latinos Unidos celebrates and remembers

By Ashlyn Fransen '24
Published November 7, 2023
Categories: International Life, Student Life, Students

Students gather at the community farm to remember loved ones who have passed. Photo by Ashlyn Fransen ’24

Student clubs Latinos Unidos and Ethnobot n’ Tea threw a Día de los Muertos—Day of the Dead—celebration at the Eckerd College Community Farm Nov. 1. Attendees drank Abuelita’s hot chocolate, painted flower pots and planted marigold seeds while the movie The Book of Life played in the background.

Día de los Muertos is a holiday that aims to remember loved ones who have passed. It’s unique in its happy nature; instead of being sad, this holiday is about celebrating and keeping their memory alive.

Latinos Unidos is a student organization dedicated to celebrating and enriching Hispanic/Latinx culture on campus. It’s a place for students to find support and community. The club creates a “hub for education,” through fun events that bring Hispanic culture to Eckerd’s campus.

“Latinos Unidos has been a great support system,” says Sofía Juárez Mora, a junior marine science student from Cancún, Mexico. “It helps me feel less homesick, like a warm hug when I need it.”

Each part of the Día de los Muertos event was carefully planned to highlight a different aspect of Hispanic culture on this special holiday. Painting pots was a way to incorporate the vibrant colors of Día de los Muertos.

“Legend says that marigolds are guides for visiting spirits,” says Imani Sullivan, a junior animal studies student from Mission, Texas. She also is the vice president of Latinos Unidos. “Who doesn’t love a good plant?”

Students huddled in the grass with blankets, and the film was projected onto a white sheet, creating a cozy movie night environment.

The Book of Life is my favorite movie of all time, but it’s also important because everyone thinks of Disney’s Coco when they think of Día de los Muertos,” Imani says. “Coco does a great job representing [the holiday], but it’s always good to have more media representation.”

A scene from the celebration of Día de los Muertos on November 1, 2015; the club has hosted events that bring Hispanic culture to Eckerd’s campus for many years. Photo by Sarah Richardson ’15

The chilly November air created the perfect atmosphere to enjoy Abuelita’s hot chocolate. This is a traditional drink that’s very similar to hot chocolate, but it has cinnamon and other spices added to it. The Ethnobot N’ Tea Club was happy to provide spices for the specialty drink.

“I’ve never tried Abuelita’s hot chocolate before, but I’m pleasantly surprised by how good it is,” said Sierra Ingram, a first-year student from Cape Coral, Florida. “I’m definitely going to have it more in the future!”

Food is an important part of Hispanic culture because it brings people together. Pan dulce, or sweet bread, is often baked in the days and weeks leading up to Day of the Dead. Members of Latinos Unidos found pan dulce at a local Mexican store in St. Petersburg and were excited to share it with their peers. Sofía even took some home to add to her ofrenda, or offering.

Imani got involved with Latinos Unidos after she changed her major. She came to Eckerd for marine science but quickly realized it would not be a fulfilling field for her. She settled on animal studies instead, but the change brought a sense of loneliness and confusion.

“Latinos Unidos brought me a community of amazing people who I love so dearly,” she says. “Planning events pushes me out of my comfort zone, but I’m honored to share my culture.”

The club isn’t exclusive to students of Latinx heritage. The officers want to create a safe space for representation and engagement with people of all different backgrounds. They are very focused and passionate about the legacy of the club, and Día de los Muertos is a meaningful way to emphasize remembrance and legacy.