Dia de los Muertos with UWT & TAM

Joanna Sappenfield

Every November the Tacoma Art Museum holds a Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos free community festival and for the fifth year in a row UWT’s Hispanic studies professors and students joined in.                      

The Day of the Dead is a time of year when the two worlds–the world of the living and the world of the dead are close enough where spirits can come back to this world and have some type of communion with them. 

“It’s important to note that not everyone believes and celebrates it the same way, but the idea is to remember family members that have died,” said Hispanic Studies professor Augustus Machine. 

This year’s 11th annual festival included “a Calavera costume contest, traditional foods, and outdoor memorials.” Community members can also set up altars remembering their lost family members, or celebrate the holiday with a themed altar. 

“We put up an altar and we had some traditional items, but generally we try and take something that would represent the university, like a literary theme or a cultural theme,” Machine said. 

Sierra Granberg, a senior in Global Studies, was also a part of the festival for the second year in a row. 

“This year the alter was about cultural appropriation and how Americans have taken the day of the dead imagery without recognizing where it comes from,” Granberg said. “We don’t understand the history or where is comes from and that it has significant meaning.” 

All students from Hispanic language classes are offered extra credit points in exchange for participating in the festival. 

Granberg’s experience was largely enjoyable because she had already acquired a love for the Spanish culture through participating in UWT’s Spanish study abroad last summer. 

“I really enjoyed setting up the booth in the museum because that’s when everybody who’s been making the booth comes together,” Granberg said. “A lot of us were in Spanish class together so we were all speaking Spanish and building this really cool altar and learning about the culture. It was a fun community atmosphere.” 

UWT will be a part of the festival for the foreseeable future. “The university has a special relationship with the museum,” Machine said. “It’s a great event for the community and the people that celebrate it and the people that are being introduced to it.”

Fifteen students from all Spanish language classes participated this this year. Machine doesn’t see that changing for a long time.