Celebrating the Day of the Dead

Dr. Giovanni Batz“The Day of the Dead is, among other things, a day for honoring the dead,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology Giovanni Batz. He drew attention to photos of five environmental and indigenous rights activists in Guatemala who were assassinated and described their lives.

Batz spoke to a crowd of more than 100 students, faculty and community members who braved cold, rainy weather to attend Miami University’s Day of the Dead celebration Nov 1, which had the theme "Tragedy and Resiliance in the Americas"

Also presenting were Dr. Elena Albarrán (History and Latin American Studies), who linked current Day of the Dead ceremonies with last month's devastating earthquake in Mexico, and Dr. Joanna Camacho Escobar (Latin American Studies) who spoke not only about those who died in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico but the continued struggles of the living in the face of painfully slow assistance and support.

The Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is an ancient tradition dating before the conquest of Mexico by Europeans. Just as it was reinvented to be syncretic with the Catholic tradition of All Saint's Day, so it continues to be continually reinvented as a contemporary living tradition, often with political overtones, said Batz.

In addition to the presentations, the celebration included painting skulls, traditional foods and hot chocolate, and the creation of an altar or ofrenda.