History Professor Raises Awareness about Day of the Dead Tradition
BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS – OCTOBER 26, 2012 – Nearly three years ago, Dr. Manuel Medrano, a Professor of History at The University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, decided he wanted to educate and entertain the local community and beyond about the rich heritage of the Mexican holiday “Día de los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead.
Dr. Manuel Medrano
The finished product, a 25-minute short film about Day of the Dead narrated by Dr. William Strong premiered at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 at the Port Isabel Light House as part of Port Isabel’s Day of the Dead weekend celebrations. The film is part of the Los Del Valle Oral History Project.
“Day of the Dead is an essential component of our community’s culture,” Medrano said. “It connects us with our pre-Columbian heritage. Hopefully, the video can be used as a teaching tool while being entertaining as well.”
Day of the Dead is a traditional Mexican and Latin American holiday celebrating the dead on Nov. 1, when it is believed that the souls of the dead can cross over and communicate with the living.
In order to complete the project, Medrano enlisted the help several people including his son, Estevan, who served as co-producer. Strong narrated the feature, students from the Oliveira Middle School choir volunteered their time to sing traditional songs for the film and Juan Ramirez from Media Services served as editor.
“The most fascinating aspect of this tradition, to me, is its longevity and resilience,” said Medrano. “The Day of the Dead celebration fuses both indigenous and European practices and celebrates those who have passed on because all of us will pass, sooner or later.”
While the celebration customs and traditions vary across Mexico, Latin America and Europe – including its Catholic counterpart, All Soul’s Day on Nov. 2 – several key aspects remain such as the traditional altars (or “altares”) set up in honor deceased family members, friends and loved ones.
The Office of Student Life invites the community to celebrate Day of the Dead with a procession along the Paseo at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2. Participants are encouraged to dress and paint their faces in traditional Day of the Dead style.
Student Life encourages the campus community to create traditional Day of the Dead altars to be displayed from Monday, Oct. 29 until Friday, Nov. 2 for “Día de los Muertos Departmental Altares Competition.”
Altars are currently set up and on display in the Student Union and in different buildings across campus.
For more information about UTB’s Day of the Dead celebrations, contact the Office of Student Life at 956-882-5138 or email@example.com.