The University’s chapter of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. concluded annual celebrations for LatinX Heritage month Friday night with its fourth annual Dia de los Muertos Ball.
In partnership with the office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs and the Michigan Latin@ Assembly, the Founders Room of the Alumni Center hosted face-painting, traditional food and a performance by the Detroit-based ballet troupe Folklorico de los Renacidos.
The aim of the ball is to educate students about the history and cultural traditions of Dia de los Muertos and celebrate the work of the LatinX Heritage planning committee.
Dia de los Muertos, which translates in English as “Day of the Dead,” is a Latin holiday celebrated every Nov. 1 to honor the dead with food and festivities. Traditional ceremonies commonly honor the dead with altars decorated with pictures, candles and marigold flowers.
LSA senior Thalia Maya, Lambda Theta Alpha sorority president, said the ball was an opportunity for the sorority to educate other students about Dia de los Muertos and Latin heritage.
“It’s more than just being able to eat good food and be able to come together as people in the Latin community,” Maya said. “It’s being able to remember those who have passed away, the loved ones and friends who were really important to us.”
Rackham student Orquidea Morales, the event’s keynote speaker, said Dia de los Muertos is her favorite holiday. Pursuing a doctorate in American Culture, Morales said she was recommended by her professor to speak based on her research on death at the border between Mexico and the United States.
Morales transferred from the University of Texas-Pan American, which has a significantly higher Latin population than the University of Michigan, which has an undergraduate Latin population of 4.93 percent.
“It does feel weird walking around being one of the few Latino students, and knowing there’s a really high attrition rate when it comes to undergraduate students of color,” she said.
Morales said she wanted to do something culturally specific this year that would bring visibility to the Latin community.
Rackham student Fantasy Posada is an alum of Lambda Theta Alpha, which was the first Latina sorority in the country. She painted her face in solidarity with her University sisters and to honor the event.
“I’m really proud of the chapter and the programming that they do, because it is very much about empowerment,” Posada said. “Empowerment of all women, but of course empowerment of Latino women.”
Roberto Perez, the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs program manager, said he had a positive experience working with the sorority and the Michigan Latin@ Assembly to construct the event.
“Reaching out to the (Michigan Latin@ Assembly) organization, and really getting a sense of unity and partnership with them has been really well received,” Perez said. “Both organizations have worked really well together.”
Perez said LatinX is a term used this year to be more inclusive of those whose gender expressions are more fluid, acting as an alternative to binary words within the Spanish language referring to gender identity.
“(It’s) a term used to be more inclusive for those who don’t identify within the male/female binary,” Perez said. “So that includes those who might identify as queer, transgender or cisgender, or anything else within the spectrum that isn’t very simply identified as male/female.”
LatinX celebrated the month with more than 20 events, including a lecture on the cultural and historical tradition of the quinceañera, a girl’s 15th birthday signifying her transition into adulthood, and a panel discussion where Latina faculty members shared their experiences as people of color at the University.