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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

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Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

The+Fresno+State+Aztec+Dance+Club+celebrated+Dia+de+los+Muertos+with+a+traditional+Aztec+dance.+An+altar+served+as+the+centerpiece+of+the+celebration.+%28Diego+Vargas%2FThe+Collegian%29
The Fresno State Aztec Dance Club celebrated Dia de los Muertos with a traditional Aztec dance. An altar served as the centerpiece of the celebration. (Diego Vargas/The Collegian)

Aztec Dance Club celebrates Dia de los Muertos

The Fresno State Aztec Dance Club celebrated Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 2, showcasing an ofrenda and a traditional Aztec dance to venerate the dead.

The club collaborated with the Cross-Cultural and Gender Center’s (CCGC) celebration of the event. An altar was made in La Casita within the CCGC, where students were able to submit photos of their loved ones who have passed away. 

“We sponsored their cempazuchil flowers, or the marigold flowers, and we also helped promote their event,” said Lesly Beas, student coordinator for Latino/a Programs and Services. “We unfortunately were not able to have a bigger location, and because of that, we weren’t able to collaborate completely.”

In total, over 30 photo submissions were sent to be displayed at La Casita’s altar. 

The dance club had an altar of its own as well, presenting a pyramid with marigolds, pan de muerto and photos of loved ones. 

Marigolds encircled and lined the legs of the tents that were propped up to protect the altar from potential rain. Near it, smoke billowed from burned sage. Candles shone in the corners of the big ofrenda, with a portrait of an Indigenous woman adorning the front of it.

The celebration kicked off with a blessing of the earth by local Native American veterans, who acknowledged the land Fresno State was built on as the traditional homelands of the Yokuts and Mono peoples.

“We bring natives since it’s also Native American Heritage Month. We commemorate them, as well as the land that we’re on, because it’s Yokut land,” said Lauren Maldonado Medina, president of the club.

After a prayer was done for the Earth and for the dead, the club performed a traditional Aztec dance. The dance is a form of prayer that honors the dead, wishes goodness for a loved one and displays remembrance of tradition.

“It’s mainly to show the students and the public what our culture is and bring more awareness to the public, like who we are, how we honor our roots, where we come from and our ancestors more than anything,” Medina said, who also participated in the dance.

The dance included the use of traditional drums at a rapid tempo. A flutist played mesmerizing notes, guiding the dancers through the ceremony.­

All of the dancers wore ankle seed shakers, eloquently stepping to the beat of the drums and filling the air with a steady rattle. They wore colorful traditional costumes, which swung and fluttered through the air as they circled the altar. A scepter bearing seed shakers and feathers was passed between the dancers, its feathers quivering with each movement.

Gloria Valencia, a Fresno State alumna who graduated in 2013, attended the event with her two children after hearing about it during a Dia de los Muertos event in Downtown Fresno.

“I went to the Cala Gala event in Arte Américas, and they reposted [a post about] this event,” Valencia said. “I wanted to bring [my children] so they could see a little bit about our culture.”

Valencia also expressed her excitement regarding the cultural representation on campus in relation to other events at Fresno State.

“I’m really glad that this university is promoting these types of events in a broader spectrum,”  Valencia said. “I’m excited about there being [celebration for] a separate holiday than Halloween and exposing my children to the differences of our cultures.”

The CCGC will also be celebrating La Posada next month on Dec. 6. Las Posadas are a tradition celebrated primarily in Latin American countries leading up to Christmas Eve.­

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