Altars, crafts, face-painting, a ‘sand tapestry’ all part of CSUCI Day of the Dead celebration on Nov. 1

November 1, 2018

Courtesy photos.

CAMARILLO — It was always Folgers coffee for Rachel Danielson’s father, George Earl Rowland, who passed away on Halloween in 2016.

So, the CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) staff member tucked a red plastic can of Folgers next to a photo of her dad in his Air Force uniform, along with a tin of his beloved chewing tobacco, Vienna sausage, a Nestle’s Crunch Bar and a weathered cap that read “Fat Harvey’s Truck Stop.”

“Whenever we drove through Oregon, we’d always stop there,” Danielson said. “I always had the chili with onions and cheese on top.”

Danielson’s homemade altar, or ofrenda is among several being created for display during CSUCI’s 10th annual Day of the Dead celebration, which will be held from noon to 9 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1 in and around the John Spoor Broome Library on campus.

The ofrenda, explained Assistant Professor of Art History Theresa Avila, is an altar created on the Day of the Dead to honor those who have passed. Fragrant marigolds are usually tucked between the offerings, which can be photographs, candles, water, sage or food they loved.

“Rituals around death are universal,” explained Avila, one of the Day of the Dead committee members. “We are focusing on Day of the Dead because it will allow the students, many of whom are Hispanic, to learn about their culture.”

The day will begin at noon in front of the John Spoor Broome library with a community sand mural directed by internationally-renowned artist and Mexico City native Jose Antonio Aguirre. Aguirre has had 14 solo exhibitions of his mixed media, print, paintings and drawings across the U.S. and Mexico. He has also had his work displayed in more than 120 collective exhibitions nationally and internationally.

“We are doing the sand mural in Mixtec style to pay tribute to the large concentration of Mixteco people and students we have in Ventura County,” said Art Lecturer Denise Lugo, who arranged for Aguirre to participate in the celebration. “The sand mural is traditional. You create this visual element in time, but it’s ephemeral. It’s here, then it exists only in our memories. Like our loved ones. They die only if we forget them.”

The mural will also pay tribute to hundreds who died in a national tragedy that Aguirre himself witnessed 50 years ago.

“This tapestry refers to the roots of the Mixteco culture, but also gives a statement about what happened 50 years ago at Tlatelolco,” Aguirre said.

It was Oct. 2, 1968, and Aguirre was not quite 13 when he and his cousin returned from shopping to their home, just off the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco section of Mexico City in time to see what would later be called the Tlatelolco massacre, the killing of scores of civilians and students by the Mexican government.

The Celebration of Life portion of the Day of the Dead will then begin at 5 p.m. with free face-painting, crafts, performances and speakers. There will also be a premiere screening of a film by Oxnard filmmaker Julio Alcala called “Cielo or Bust,” based on the poem by the late Oxnard author/poet Michele Serros.

Activist feminist writer Dorinda Moreno, an elder from the Chicana/o community, will travel from Santa Maria to speak about the Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos.

Then, guests will hear from longtime Oxnard resident Javier Gomez, a prominent figure in the community’s cultural arts and theater.

“He will be talking about the significance of Day of the Dead in performance theater, in the Teatro Campesino or farmworkers’ theater,” Luna explained.

CSUCI Chicana/o Studies students will then perform a Teatro piece they have put together to round out the Day of the Dead celebration.

The day-long event was planned by the Day of the Dead committee comprised of staff and faculty from the Art, Spanish and Chicana/o Studies programs, and Intercultural Services. The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlán or MEChA also collaborated to help put together the celebration.

About California State University Channel Islands: CSU Channels Islands is reimagining higher education for a new generation and era. We are an innovative higher education institution that enables students to succeed and thrive, serves as an engine for social and economic vitality and provides the intellectual resources necessary for a thriving democracy. With more than 7,000 students, 1,200 employees and 16,000 alumni, CSUCI is designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and is committed to serving students of all backgrounds from the region and beyond. Our strong academic programs focus on business, sciences, liberal studies, teaching credentials, and innovative master’s degrees. Connect with and learn more by visiting CSUCI’s Social Media.

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