Learning about history usually happens within the confines of a classroom, but Cal State Fullerton’s celebration of Día de los Muertos brought lessons to the dance floor on Thursday. Brightly colored dresses illustrated the performers’ flare as they introduced their own ways of remembering their roots while others explained their heritage through violin plucks and mariachi repertoire.
Día de los Muertos is a traditional Mexican holiday that ignites the connection between dead relatives and present families. The customs passed down through generations are unearthed every year to be practiced on the first and second of November.
With entertainment like Ballet Folklorico de CSUF, La Victoria and the Aztec-style dance group Toyaacan, performances at Día de los Muertos at CSUF embodied the intricacies of Mexican culture.
La Victoria is a three-member band of women based in Downtown Los Angeles that performs mariachi-style music. Their group acknowledges where traditional Mexican folk music began but is also influenced by American styles.
Vaneza Calderon, a La Victoria member, obligated to keep the energy and songs alive through performances. She thinks the music is beautiful, even though it isn’t as popular as other genres. The trio plays traditional mariachi music with motivation to dissolve gender norms.
“People don’t usually see women as (mariachi) musicians,” Calderon said.
She also believes that women are more approachable to younger kids than men with intimidating appearances. Calderon said all women can influence children with music and teach them to appreciate mariachi.
Ballet Folklorico de CSUF is composed of students from CSUF who present the art of folk dancing that originated from their Mexican ancestors. For Ballet Folklorico member Uriel Morales, performing this type of dance is about bringing the community together through tradition.
“My main goal is creating a safe space,” Morales said. “If you’re undocumented, I don’t care. This is a spot where you can be yourself and you can have a voice here.”
Whether it was through dance or song, every performer entertained the crowd with their own form of expressed cultural talent.
At the end of the night, everyone took home a dance move as Toyaacan a dancing group from La Puente, brought the event to a close. With their Aztec garb designed with feathers and fabric, the dancers appeared to frolic with ease as they taught audience members the steps to the Friendship dance.
“It’s like a hug. You come here and we hug you, and we include you and you become part of our family,” said Toyaacan member Carlos Daniel Jimenez.
Movimiento Estudiantil [email protected] de Aztlán de CSUF and a planning committee composed of volunteers from the Latino/a community organized the 23rd annual celebration of Día de los Muertos at Cal State Fullerton.
Co-chair Abel Mendoza said that the purpose of the event was to celebrate past and present life and to introduce those who are unfamiliar with the Mexican holiday to the tradition.
“It goes back to our indigenous roots where they had all these traditions already in place, and today is the day where we celebrate, get together and have a really good time with friends and family,” Mendoza said. “It’s a celebration of life.”