In recent years, the Day of the Dead, or El Día de los Muertos, has become much more than just a Mexican celebration of the lives of deceased loved ones.
Starting in the 1970s, Mexican communities in the U.S. also started using the Day of the Dead to raise awareness of issues of the current time, said Javier Pescador, professor in the Department of History.
In keeping with this new trend, a celebration of the Day of the Dead was held at the MSU Museum, but beyond just reflecting on Mexican heritage, the event featured a variety of activities to raise awareness about homophobia, this year’s focus.
Today’s festivities are open to anybody, Pescador said.
“Day of the Dead started as public rituals in the 1970s and started emphasizing the needs of the community,” Pescador said.
This is the fourth straight year the museum has helped put on the Day of the Dead.
The museum hosted an Aztec dance, face painting and the showing of the documentary “Just Because I Am,” which Pescador co-directed, for a gathering of about 50 MSU community members.
The Day of the Dead also featured speaker Chris Rabideau, a resident of Windsor, Ontario.
Rabideau was interviewed for the documentary after being assaulted by two men in summer 2010 for being gay. It was four days after Rabideau finished directing a play portraying the struggles of local gay youth.
“It’s amazing because you have a surge of positivity when you put on a production to send such a message out,” Rabideau said. “But then four days later to be victim of a crime and you relive the moment on stage. It was for a great purpose, but in the moment, I remember thinking, ‘Oh, my. This is exactly what happened in the play.’”
Mechanical engineering senior Zack Hoyle, who attended the event after a professor recommended it, still sees the importance of homophobia awareness.
“I feel like, as a society, it’s time to accept people for who they are regardless of anything,” Hoyle said. “It boggles my mind that people don’t already do that.”
Rabideau said people are killing themselves because they don’t feel like they can be who they are.
“Be yourself, and it will get better,” Rabideau said.
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