The traditional celebration of Dia de Los Muertos took place at Notre Dame with  OFRENDA intact, VINUETE and mariachi music playing, and ballet folklorico performances in full swing.

Sponsored by the Institute of Latino Studies, Snite Museum of Art, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the Dia de Los Muertos festivities brought together the vibrant and intellectual forces of internationally known artist Artemio Rodriguez, anthropologist Alex E. Chavez, Juan Rivera of SONES DE MEXICO, and Mariachi ND and Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro.             

In Mexico, each November 2 marks a holiday in which people commemorate their deceased family members through merriment and joyous recollection. Special customs include building an OFRENDA, which is a private altar filled with photographs, favorite foods, sugar skulls, marigolds, and other items the deceased person may have loved in his lifetime. Families also visit the cemetery sites with hope that the departed rest in peace.

At this year’s observance, Artemio Rodriguez, a master printmaker, presented a cultural and exquisite OFRENDA. His OFRENDA recollected college life but was also adorned with traditional relics, such as marigolds (ZEMPASUCHIL flowers).

Each OFRENDA had many the typical items found in a dorm room, including a desk, typewriter, phone, television, lamp, even a cap and gown, each covered with print images of “The Triumph of Death.” He blended images of student life with traditional OFRENDA items, to offer up his own contemporary expression of honoring his past life of academia.        

After viewing Rodriguez’s creation, Dr. Chavez, a Notre Dame visiting fellow, gave a presentation entitled “Serenading the Afterlife: The Sacred and Profane in Vinuete Music of Central Mexico.” He discussed how the VINUETE is a musically embodied sacred practice that draws from African, indigenous, and Spanish Catholic tradition.

VINUETE  instrumental music, which is played at funeral wakes, Chavez explained, emotes the afterlife. We cannot explain in words what death is, Chavez reiterated, but the timbre of VINUETE performance attempts to imagine the hereafter.

Chavez and Juan Rivera of SONES DE MEXICO afterwards performed examples of VINUETE music through performance. Mariachi ND, under the direction of Roman Sanchez, contributed by playing songs such as popular favorite “Volver, Volver.” With black and white painted faces resembling the dead  (LOS MUERTOS), Notre Dame’s Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro also took the stage and offered a brief showcase of dances from Jalisco, “Zempaxuchtil” and “Los Copetonas.”

The audience not only learned of a beautiful Mexican tradition but also had the opportunity to recall and celebrate the lives of their deceased loved ones. From the food and décor, to the music and dance,  Dia de Los Muertos was a festivity full of life.        

Adriana Garcia is a junior theology/sociology major and is happy to announce that she has been dancing ballet folklorico for 8 years. She can be seen on stage alongside her Ballet Folklorico Azul y Oro buddies or she can be reached at