UTSA Honors Students Educate and Celebrate Through Day of the Dead Exhibit

March 29, 2021

While many UTSA students take the month of October to celebrate Halloween, one group of Honors students have turned their attention to Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. It is observed from October 31st to November 2nd. Decorations, rituals, and festivities honor the memory of loved ones who have passed on. “During this time, it’s believed that the line between the spirit world and the living world is at its thinnest, so the spirits make the journey to join the living in the celebrations,” explained Honors College counselor and instructor Alegra Lozano. Lozano teaches the honors seminar course entitled “Day of the Dead,” in which her students fulfill the Honors Experience, Engaged Living, through exploration, observance, and community engagement around this lavish multi-day celebration.


The UTSA Honors College ofrenda. Located in the Honors College Student Lounge.

Students began their educational celebrations by creating a physical ofrenda, or offering, located in the Honors Student Lounge on campus. An ofrenda is a central part of Día de los Muertos. It is an altar on which families place photos of their loved ones as well as food, letters, and other objects that might have meaning to the departed. These objects serve as offerings to lost family, friends, and, sometimes, even celebrities or pets. Honors students in Lozano’s seminar created their own UTSA themed ofrenda, inviting all university students and staff to add items of their own. The display will remain open for viewing and participation in the Honors College student lounge until later this semester.

The Day of the Dead seminar has been popular with students for several years, but this was the first year it went virtual. The Honors College curriculum is experiential, which means applying knowledge learned in course. Replacing in-person displays with virtual exhibits and events may seem like a daunting task, but according to Lozano, “despite the shift in environment, the students were just as interested in learning and engaging in this topic” as they have been in the past. “With the huge support from the UTSA Libraries and Institute of Texan Cultures,” she goes on, “we were able to create a hands-on learning experience, where the students were engaged, supported, and created just as an amazing exhibit as in previous years.”

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A Poster from the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures Advertising the Day of the Dead Virtual Exhibit.

A physical ofrenda is just the beginning for these students. They have also created a virtual exhibit for the Institute of Texan Cultures and UTSA Libraries, which you can access here. They also partnered with the Student Multicultural Center for Equity & Justice to provide a two-minute pre-recorded lecture on ofrendas, which can be viewed on Instagram @utsa_mscej. The students also co-hosted a Chomp & Chat event which facilitated a discussion on cultural appropriation within the context of the holiday.

The Day of the Dead course is about collaboration and connections, both in honor of the celebration and the commitment to experiential learning. Lozano and her students would like to express their gratitude to the following individuals for their assistance throughout the course: Dean Hendrix, Kirsten Cutts, and Joaquin Herrera from UTSA Libraries, and James Benavides and Cristina Wilson from the Institute of Texan Cultures.

 

- Elise Jaynes

About the UTSA Honors College

The UTSA Honors College is a non-traditional, liberal arts and sciences college that recruits and develops students in all academic disciplines. Emphasizing student development within a real-world context, UTSA Honors has one of the most experiential honors curricula in the nation. Honors College students are immersed in a small college culture with the unique resources of one of the nation’s top emerging research universities. UTSA Honors College students have the distinct advantages of learning and networking in a vibrant, culturally-rich, and innovative city setting. Learn more online, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on Instagram.