Texas Tech’s Office of International Affairs hosted the Día de los Muertos “Procesión” at the International Cultural Center on Nov. 5 to celebrate the Day of the Dead, celebrated Nov. 1 and 2. 

In addition to work by several professional artists, the ICC displayed art and photography pieces created by Hutchinson Middle School students, many of whom were in attendance with their families. Marci Beene, photography teacher at Hutchinson, said several departments at the middle school have been guiding students through these projects.

“My kids have never done a big photoshoot before, so everybody’s just kind of thrown in, and then this is the result, you know, and it’s pretty fabulous at 12, 13 years old,” Beene said. “So, we spend two days, two full days, just taking photos every single class period. It’s, like, organized chaos.”

Spread throughout the ICC were photos of students in sugar skull makeup done by Hutchinson theater students. The photos were edited by Beene’s photography students in Photoshop and other computer programs.

Beene said it is exciting to see her students go from not knowing what Día de los Muertos is to seeing their art on display. It is important for them to have a global understanding of culture, she said.

“That’s why that’s important, so that they can just be lifelong, out-of-the-box learners at an early age and that they can be a part of it (Día de los Muertos), and getting their work out there and displayed — it’s just the perk of it, you know, for them to have the pride at the end,” Beene said.

The procession also included a performance from the Texas Tech mariachi band, Los Matadores, and Día de los Muertos-themed activities like sugar skull decoration and face painting. Handmade ofrendas created by Spanish students at Hutchinson honored the lives of their family members as well as favorite celebrities.

Monica Pool, a social worker at Hospice of Lubbock, said her daughter Kennedy, who is in seventh grade at Hutchinson, had her photos on display. As Pool’s daughter is half Hispanic, Pool said it is important for her to learn about that side of her heritage.

“It’s broadening their horizons, and just seeing a different part of not just the world but part of her (Kennedy) own culture, you know, things that she might not have known, and so I think it’s really important, and to keep it going,” Pool said.

Gabriela Olivares, a second-year psychology student at South Plains College from Lubbock, plays the vihuela for Los Matadores and said she has played the guitar-like instrument for six or seven years. Olivares got her start in mariachi during her first year at Lubbock High School, she said.

Led by Dr. Lauryn Salazar, Los Matadores is composed mainly of college students who have prepared for this Día de los Muertos performance since the beginning of the semester, Olivares said. Although mariachi culture is not as popular in West Texas as it is in the southern part of the state, Lubbock’s mariachi programs have helped the art grow, she said.

“And I feel like our groups, like the Lubbock High mariachi and the Texas Tech mariachi, Cavazos, I feel like they’ve definitely helped bring culture into West Texas,” Olivares said.

Growing up, Olivares celebrated Día de los Muertos with her family as a form of celebration of life rather than mourning, putting up ofrendas to honor her loved ones.

“It’s another heritage, just, culture, so I feel like — I see, actually, a lot of people appreciating it more here, like, all around you see people of all ethnicities right now, amazed by the art and music, connecting, and I feel like if they had that connection with their past and their family, that it would bring them more together than anything else,” Olivares said.

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