A Day of the Dead celebration that is open to the public is returning to Clemson University on Nov. 4 with an altar exhibit, mariachi band, food trucks serving traditional fare, children’s activities and a screening of the movie “Coco.”
Clemson’s fifth annual observance of the holiday will be held from 6-9 p.m. in Carillon Gardens next to Bowman Field, and admission is free. All ages are welcome.
A skeleton in elegant dress, called a Catrina, will be on display, along with altars where the living can leave pictures or mementos to honor loved ones who have died. It is tradition to offer their favorite food or drink because it is thought to be an enticement to return to the realm of the living for a night.
Day of the Dead, called Día de los Muertos in Spanish, is meant to reunite the living and the dead, making it a joyful celebration, said Rodrigo Martinez-Duarte, an associate professor of mechanical engineering who is a chief organizer of the Clemson event.
“We look forward to educating the Clemson community about this important tradition,” he said. “More importantly, we are providing an open, safe space for the Latino community across the Upstate to come together.”
Day of the Dead is often celebrated with marigolds, skeletons and decorative skulls called calaveras. Some observers cover their faces in white and black makeup to resemble a skull, and face-painting will be available at Clemson’s celebration, Martinez-Duarte said.
While Day of the Dead officially lands on the night from Nov. 1 to 2, it is common for observances to be held a few days before or after. The tradition, which started in Mexico, is now celebrated throughout Latin America and has spread to many locations across the United States.
Day of the Dead at Clemson reflects the growing influence of the Latinx community on the University and the state. The number of Hispanic students hit 1,789 in 2021, a 242% increase over 2013.
Among those who have attended the Clemson observance of Day of the Dead is Robert Jones, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost.
“The Day of the Dead observance helps raise awareness of the rich mix of cultures that make up Clemson University and the growing diversity of the state and nation,” he said. “We welcome all to join us in celebrating this cherished tradition.”
Clemson’s celebration is organized by a committee of faculty, staff and students across the university and is sponsored by the Clemson University Commission on Latino Affairs and Clemson Inclusion and Equity. This year’s sponsors also include the South Carolina Botanical Garden, Clemson Libraries and the Department of Languages.
The best place to park for the event is in the orange and green spaces behind Sikes Hall. For more information on the event, go to www.clemsondayofthedead.org.
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