CWU News

CWU Commemorates Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

Day of the Dead—celebrated throughout Mexico and the United States—started centuries ago as an event dedicated to Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec death goddess. Dia de los Muertos tends to be erroneously associated with Halloween, but its purpose is to focus on remembering loved ones who have died.

Central Washington University will host its annual Day of the Dead commemoration on Friday, November 4. A procession will begin the event at 5:00 p.m., beginning in the Dean Hall lobby and ending at the Student Union and Recreation Center (SURC) East Patio. Once there, Aztec performers will present a traditional Day of the Dead ritual at 5:45 p.m. At 6:00 p.m. the event shifts into the SURC Ballroom.

More than 400 people, including members of the growing Latino community on campus and in the Ellensburg community, are expected to attend the free, public commemoration.

“This is Memorial Day for the Latino community,” said Veronica Gómez-Vilchis, CWU Center for Diversity and Social Justice Diversity Officer. “This is not about spooky things or scaring people.”

CWU will honor traditions connected with the holiday such as altars to honor the deceased, along with sugar skulls, marigolds, favorite foods and beverages, and dance.

There will be live music, Aztec and Folkloric dance performers, and a photo booth, with crafts and other activities for children throughout the family friendly event. Food vendors will also be on hand, offering a variety of Mexican options available for $2.00 (cash only) or less.

The CWU event is held on Friday to allow for more people and families, who may otherwise have to miss it because of weekday work or school considerations, to participate. In addition, more people from non-Hispanic cultures are becoming involved, based on a common theme of honoring those who have passed away in the last year.

“This is something everyone can relate to,” Gómez-Vilchis added. “They see the value in it because it is about remembering our loved ones, talking about them, honoring their memory and reminiscing about who they were.”

Day of the Dead is among the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of radio services and integrated communications, 509-963-1487,

November 4, 2016