Campus News

UK Celebrates Dia de los Muertos

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 29, 2021) — The University of Kentucky and Lexington comunidad are cordially invited to celebrate life at the annual Día de Los Muertos celebration on campus next week.

"This year we are observing Día de Los Muertos in the traditional way — over multiple nights, Nov. 1 and 2,’ said Ruth González Jiménez, Latino student community specialist with the UK Martin Luther King (MLK) Cultural Center.

“Day of the Dead is celebrated all over the world,” said Christine Capalar, vice president of programming for the Omicron Zeta chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated. “Customs range from decorating tombstones and bringing the deceased’s favorite treats and miscellaneous items, while gathering to remember them. Ofrendas, or altars, include pictures, candies, drinks, lights and any item that honors their memory.”

This year’s program features a movie night on Monday, Nov. 1, with a showing of the 2014 film, "The Book of Life." The movie will be screened in the Gatton Student Center Worsham Cinema at 8 p.m. with refreshments provided.  

The following day will feature the celebration of life and vigil UK has come to enjoy every year since 2017. This will take place at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 2, at Patterson Hall. The event is sponsored by the Omicron Zeta chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma National Sorority Incorporated, the MLK Center, the Latino Student Union and the Office of Student Organizations and Activities. 

“Our annual Day of the Dead program has looked differently throughout the years," Capalar said. "This year, we are offering a mix of elements from past years, as well as adding new ones to the program. The foundation of the celebration will be the same: a vigil, free food, an altar and activities throughout the night. However, this year, we are going to walk through creating an altar with attendees, speaking on the history and significance of each element and allowing them to contribute to it. We will also be adding new activities that represent how countries from around the world celebrate the holiday.” 

Capalar noted that, “in some countries, people write messages or letters to their loved ones. In the Philippines, some families emphasize not only bringing food to the tombstone of their passed loved ones, but also having a feast to share amongst those still in this life. As a multicultural organization, our sisters are intentional about educating our guests that Day of the Dead is celebrated in many forms and is not Mexican Halloween.

“Day of the Dead is a meaningful and intentional holiday that honors life and lost life, instead of fictional, spooky ghouls, and is celebrated everywhere,” Capalar said. 

All guests are encouraged to bring an article/picture/item to add to the Big Blue Ofrenda, the campuswide community altar. 

This year’s campus vigil will again remember those globally and nationally lost to COVID-19, racial violence, victims of political instability and war, and many others, including Thomas Lofton Hazelwood, the UK student and Greek community member who recently passed. Trans Day of Remembrance is also observed in November, and the program will honor the lives of LGBTQ* persons, after closing LGBTQ History Month. 

“The goal of this observation is to see and celebrate one another,” said Anthony Labrado, president of the Latino Student Union and brother of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity Incorporated. “November also kicks off Native American and Alaskan Native Heritage Month, so when we celebrate Day of the Dead, we emphasize that it is representative of all of us — Día de Los Muertos being a holiday stemming out of syncretism between Indigenous, African and European spiritual/religious customs and practices.” 

UK's COVID-19 safety precautions will be taken to ensure all enjoy. Face masks are required to attend both events.

You can follow the team on Instagram, at @UK_MLKCenter, @UK_Gammas, @LSU_UK and @UKGetInvolved. For more information, accommodations and questions, contact the Omicron Zeta Chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma by emailing Capalar at Christine.capalar@uky.edu or the MLK Center at MLKC@uky.edu.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $501 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.