Day of the Dead at El Centro


Photo Courtesy of Luis Ortiz

(Left to right) Alicia Rivera, Adrian Hernandez, Eddie Bocanegra, Jesse Huerta and Jadirah Sanchez at last year’s Day of the Dead at El Centro

Jason Merel, Writer

El Centro is hosting the 2nd annual Day of the Dead celebration, Oct. 25 from 6-9 p.m. in room 110.

The celebration includes music and free food. There will also be a canned food drive benefitting the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and guests are encouraged to bring donations.

The main feature of the celebration will be 30 pieces of artwork created by students from “Imago Dei,” an after-school program based out of St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic Church in Little Village.

The artwork theme is titled “Pieces of Me” and focuses on personal topics for the artists.

Ten students will be on hand to discuss their artwork and there will be a silent auction of the work open Oct. 25 – Nov. 2, benefitting “Imago Dei.” Proceeds will be used for art supplies.

Last year’s auction collected more than $900 for the program.

The celebration is sponsored by NEIU, the Department of Social Work and the Alliance for Student Social Workers.

The artwork submissions and selections are coordinated by ASSW Treasurer Martha Armenta Robles, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work at NEIU, and Jesse Huerta, who graduated NEIU in 2015 and now works with “Imago Dei.”

The event is coordinated by Robles and Luis Ortiz, professor of social work and NEIU alumnus.

“In the Mexican community they celebrate departures instead of mourning them,” Ortiz said.

The Day of the Dead—or Dia de los Muertos—is a Mexican tradition that honors and remembers loved ones who have passed. It traditionally lasts from Oct. 31 – Nov. 2.

“It happens right around Halloween but Day of the Dead is more about being connected with your loved ones who aren’t here any more,” said Robles. “During the celebration it’s like the ones we lost are still here with us and their memory continues.”

A major part of the celebration is the building of personal altars, called ofrendas, where the dead are honored with favorite foods and beverages.

“One student brought in a picture of his grandfather and a bottle of his grandfather’s favorite liquor last year,” said Ortiz. “We had to empty it of course, before going on the altar, but it was his grandfather’s favorite so why not?”

Several altars will be available for visitors to bring pictures of loved ones as well as offerings to honor their memory. The altars and artwork will be on display until Nov. 2, the traditional end of the celebration.