CLEMSON – Friends and family members will have an opportunity to remember and celebrate loved ones who have passed away when the South Carolina Botanical Garden holds its second annual Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, celebration from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1, at the garden.

Photo of La Catrina, a popular icon of death in Mexico, presides over the altar at the Day of the Dead celebration.
La Catrina, a popular icon of death in Mexico, presides over the altars at Day of the Dead celebrations.

Admission is free. Shuttle buses will be available to bring people from parking areas to the celebration. The South Carolina Botanical Garden is located at 150 Discovery Lane, Clemson.

The Day of the Dead Festival is a traditional Latin American holiday when people celebrate and honor loved ones who have died. Clemson held its first Day of the Dead celebration in 2018.

“We had such a tremendous response last year, we wanted to hold this event again to help create awareness of Mexican/Latino culture, as well as provide a welcoming environment for the Upstate’s Mexican/Latino population in which they can continue cherishing their traditions,” said Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, a Clemson associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Martinez-Duarte stressed the holiday is not exclusive to Mexico and that several different Latino cultures also celebrate Día de los Muertos. He noted this is not a sad holiday but one of celebration.

Several activities are planned for the Nov. 1 event, including a special outdoor screening of the movie “The Book of Life,” beginning at 7 p.m. The Consul of Mexico for the Carolinas, Claudia Velasco, also will be there. The celebration includes traditional community altars, a mariachi band and more. Food and drinks will be sold from food trucks. T-shirts, marigolds and poinsettias will be for sale. There will be numerous activities, including face painting for children.

Richly decorated altars or “ofrendas” in the houses and at gravesites of the departed are common Day of the Dead traditions. These altars are decorated with flowers and pictures of the departed, their favorite items and foods, and other lively objects such as sugar skulls, skeletons, incense and candles.

“The South Carolina Botanical Garden is excited to host this second annual event,” said Angel Perkins, garden business manager. “This is a wonderful opportunity to bring the Upstate together and celebrate the culture and heritage of the Hispanic and Latino communities. Flowers are an important part of this celebration, so it was a natural fit to host it here.”

A massive altar is set up so that the pubic can display pictures, food and favorite mementos from their deceased loved ones.
A massive altar, such as this from the 2018 Day of the Dead celebration at the S.C. Botanical Garden, will be set up so that the pubic can display pictures, food and favorite mementos from their deceased loved ones.

For the festival, organizers will construct a massive altar where the public can display pictures, food and favorite mementos from their loved ones. Attendees are invited to bring portraits of the departed to place on the communal altar.

The Botanical Garden has been growing cempazuchitl, Mexican marigold flowers, to carpet the altar. This is the main flower used during Day of the Dead celebrations. The flower’s vibrant color is said to represent the sun, which in Aztec mythology guides spirits on their way to the underworld.

The Day of the Dead celebration is the result of the ancient ritual venerations and offerings to the goddess Mictecacihuatl, “Lady of the Dead,” for deceased children and adults. The emphasis of this holiday is on honoring memories and uniting the community as well as using celebration and vibrant colors to lighten the dark shades of our mortality.

Lee Gill, Clemson’s chief diversity officer, said this event is representative of the university’s support of and engagement with the Hispanic community.

“Clemson is proud to host an initiative which brings together multiple partners and emphasizes the values of celebration and curiosity around the increasing diversity in our state,” Gill said. “We invite everyone to come and learn what a celebration of the Day of the Dead means to the Hispanic community.”

The Day of the Dead celebration is possible thanks to a unique collaboration among volunteers from different organizations across the Upstate. These include volunteers from Clemson University’s faculty, staff and students, its Commission on Latino Affairs and the Division of Inclusion and Equity; the South Carolina Botanical Garden; the Hispanic Alliance; the Oconee County School District; Palmetto Luna Arts and the Mexican Consulate for the Carolinas.

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