The Office of Belonging hosted the “Remember Me” Open House in the Wilkinson Student Center to honor ancestors of all cultures on Nov. 1 for Dia de los Muertos.
According to Rita Cortez, managing director of the Chinese Flagship Center and organizer of many of BYU’s Dia de los Muertos celebrations, the event has grown over the years since she first made an effort to celebrate the dearly departed.
BYU’s Dia de los Muertos celebrations began as a small display personally set up by Cortez in the corner of the Joseph F. Smith Building in the College of Humanities, moved to the Kennedy Center and this year was held in the Wilkinson Student Center. The event was presented by the Office of Belonging with support from the Library Family History Department and College of Humanities.
Initially focused on celebrating Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, the event has grown to include more cultures and traditions to promote inclusivity on campus.
The “Remember Me” open house had displays from a variety of departments ornamented with decorations and educational material. Those participating included The Chinese Flagship Center, the Ballard Center, Pacific Islander Connect and FamilySearch.
Participants were able to admire the intricately set up exhibits and learn about the burial and grave-keeping traditions of different cultures. People of all ages filed through the rows of displays, eventually reaching a table offering free churros at the end of the line.
Live performances with singing and dancing were also held on the east side of the garden court.
These performances included a Native American Fancy Dance by Naabaahii’ Tsosie from the Tribe of Many Feathers Club, the BYU mariachi band Mariachi Los Pumas and a spoken address on traditions honoring ancestors in the Ivory Coast by Nemet Ketoleu Frejus-Claver, a business student at BYU.
Naabaahii Tsosie, a senior studying political science, expressed appreciation for his Navajo and Mexican heritage and for the opportunity to showcase his heritage to those who were in attendance. Tsosie encouraged the BYU community to attend events such as The Office of Belonging’s “Remember Me” to better understand those around them.
“If they want to understand further different viewpoints, things like this will surprisingly teach you a lot about people — their political opinions, even healthcare opinions,” Tsosie said.
Maddi Morton, office manager in the Office of Belonging, did not grow up celebrating the Day of the Dead, but said the event was still powerful for her. Morton said she was glad to see and learn about how the different cultures think about and remember their ancestors.
“I felt the spirit of Elijah today at that event. I felt very much like, ‘Wow our ancestors are so much closer to us than you realize.’ And not just close to us emotionally, that they’re invested in our well-being and they’re remembering us and we need to remember them,” Morton said.
Sam Haggard, a 23-year-old BYU student from North Dakota, came to the event to see his friend in the mariachi band. Although he did not do much to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, he appreciated the events and displays put on by the school.
“My grandma’s from Mexico, so I like that they did the ofrenda in the library because I was able to print off her picture and put it up. So I thought that was really cool,” Haggard said.
Departments all over campus were encouraged by Cortez to join in celebrating their ancestors. Eleven different displays and ofrendas could be found around BYU campus this week, such as those in the library and BYU bookstore.
Many cultural displays will continue to be set out in different buildings across BYU campus until Friday, Nov. 3 in honor of ancestors and cultural heritage.