The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Anthropology club celebrates El Dia de los Muertos

Spencer Eggers/The Daily Campus

(Spencer Eggers/The Daily Campus)

The Anthropology Club hosted a meet and greet in celebration of El Día de los Muertos in Heroy Science Hall Monday afternoon.

Students and faculty members from the history, Spanish and anthropology departments joined the club for its annual celebration that started nearly 10 years ago.

Attendees played bingo and sampled traditional Latin American fare like tamales, posole, ceviche and sopapillas. Festive treats such as customary sugar skulls called calaveras, cookies and cupcakes were also featured in the spread.

“We basically tried to pick dishes that were inspired by Latin American countries, but it’s not necessarily what they’re eating on Day of the Dead in these different countries,” Brigitte Kovacevich, an assistant professor who serves as the faculty advisor to the Anthropology Club, said.

Known as the Day of the Dead in English, the holiday is celebrated yearly on Nov. 1st and 2nd to remember deceased relatives and friends in predominantly Latin American countries.


Although the name may denote a more solemn occasion, countries like Mexico view the Day of the Dead as a time for celebration versus a time for mourning.

“A celebration like this can be misinterpreted,” Kovacevich said. “That you’re celebrating death or that it’s something kind of evil.”

While Kovacevich says customs vary by country, she explains that rituals can include family gatherings at the gravesites of loved ones, where relatives pray and then feast on favorite foods of the deceased

“In Guatemala they fly kites at the cemetery that represent the souls of the dead, then they go home and eat a traditional meal that’s called a fiambre,” she said.

Kovacevich compares the energy that surrounds the event to traditional Western holidays.

“It would be like our Thanksgiving or Christmas where you’re baking days in advance and getting things ready,” she said. “It’s really a big deal.”

Often, families erect an altar in their home where ofrendas or offerings are made to the deceased. These can include personal items and pictures, in addition to symbolic items like candles, flowers and skulls.

Anthropology Club President Rachel Stonecipher describes the symbolic purpose of marigold flowers in the displays.

“The dead follow the smell of the marigold to be with their families,” she said.

The club set up its own altar to honor recently deceased faculty members of SMU’s Department of Anthropology, including Emeritus Professor Lewis Binford, a well-respected archeologist and Roy Huffington, the namesake of SMU’s Earth Sciences Department. Other prominent historical anthropologists and archaeologists like Hiram Bingham had their place on the altar as well.

Sophomore Courtney Spalten recalls witnessing some of the holiday festivities in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

“I have a lot of friends from Mexico and I know that their families celebrate it a lot and that their house is always decorated for it,” she said. “It means a lot to their families.”

Conversely, David Rex, a Spanish and history professor, says that celebrations in his homeland, Spain, have a much more somber tone than the ones in Mexico and in other Latin American countries.

“It’s a day when people go to their family members’ tombs to deposit flowers, pray and cry. It’s a very sad day,” he said. “They dress in black. You don’t see music, singing. It’s really a mourning day.”

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