© 2022 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Nominate your favorite local nonprofit for a chance to win $1,000 on-air advertising

Boise State student leaders use Dia de los Muertos to honor and uplift the marginalized

A Dia de los Muertos ofrenda (altar) displaying photographs, flowers, fruit, and painted rocks.
Abby Cheng
Boise State Public Radio
A Dia de los Muertos ofrenda offers flowers and favorite foods to the late Sara Rose MacCallum.

On Nov. 2, Boise State celebrated Dia de los Muertos with food, music, dancing and a beautiful display of ofrendas. These ofrendas, or altars to loved ones that have passed, lined the halls of the Student Union Building.

They were covered in candles, flowers, photographs, candy skulls and favorite foods. The ofrendas honored parents, grandparents, fellow students and pets. Traditional Hispanic music echoed throughout the building, and a local dance troop even came to perform.

The junior high students were led in a traditional Oaxacan dance by Monique Michel, the Spanish teacher at Boise’s Foothills School of Arts and Sciences.

The girls, clothed in brightly colored skirts and carrying fruit bowls in their arms, stepped in time with the boys, dressed smartly in black and wearing fedoras. All of Michel’s students had faces painted to look like skeletons.

Dia de los Muertos is typically a day spent with family and friends, reminiscing and reflecting on the people who have blessed our lives with their presence. However, as two young student activists explained, the holiday is far more than a cultural celebration. It is a time for communities to uplift those who so often go unseen.

Alejandra Hernandez and Katelyn Quintero, both involved with Movimiento Estudiantil Progressive Action, or MEPAs, used their ofrenda to honor the marginalized.

“One of the things that we did for our altar was honoring those that have been through domestic violence,” said Quintero. “It wasn’t towards any specific people, it was more [for] a group of people, a community. Part of [Dia de los Muertos] is just honoring those that have made an impact on you or that you want to honor.”

When asked what the Latinx and Hispanic community needs from its allies, Hernandez, president of MEPAs, answered resoundingly: support.

“We can’t do a lot of the community outreach if we don’t have the support from everybody. For example, if you’re in [a] high leadership position, use that to just be there, show up, support, or use it to bring in the support for us.”

You can learn more about MEPAs on their Facebook or Instagram.

Abby is a creative writing major and senior at The College of Idaho. An Idaho native, Abby enjoys hiking, skiing and reading outside.