The smell of incense filled the quad as the Aztec dance group, Yankuititl performed in traditional indigenous garb honoring Dia de los Muertos. Colorful feathers extended from their headbands and bounced as they danced. Calavera (skull) face paint drawn on the faces of students—all signifying an appreciation for their ancestors and those who have passed.
“It’s a very beautiful day, our ancestors celebrated it centuries ago. We do this by setting up altars with candles and pictures.” said Maggie Calderon, a member and leader of Yankuititl, as she spoke to a crowd of students and faculty who watched the native dancers.
The Puente Project club and Associated Students at Pasadena City College organized an altar on the steps in front of the CC building so that students could place photographs, belongings, or anything that reminded the of their loved ones who have passed. The clubs set up shop in front of the altar, giving out aguas frescas and pan de muerto, a traditional bread eaten during Dia de los Muertos to faculty and students. Students were able to participate in different activities such as face painting or decorating an egg to place on the altar. Students of Latinx descent were able to appreciate their culture and celebrate it.
“Dia de los Muertos makes me proud.” said Desiree Marmolejo, Puente Project member.
The dancers from Yankuititl mezmorized the crowd gathered around in the quad. The audience was asked by the group to join them in a “friendship dance” where everyone held hands in a circle and then proceeded to follow the lead of the dancers. The dance lasted a little over five minutes and it was obvious by the smiles on their faces that those who participated in the dance, felt a sense of togetherness. Calderon educated those who were there listening by being explicit with her explanation of the holiday.
“It’s not Halloween, it is a sacred day,” said Calderon.
This common misconception is usually interpreted by the face paint, the skulls and how close it is to Halloween. However, the Puente Club wanted to make sure people did not conflate the two. Flyers were handed out with facts about the holiday such as where it originated and the symbolism tied to Dia de Los Muertos. “We are here today to celebrate our culture and our religion,” said PCC student Brandon Ganbo. “We are here to expose it.”