Growing up in Mexico, Dia de los Muertos (“The Day of the Dead”) was a neighborhood affair for Lillian Casillas-Origel. So in 2014, as the neighborhood in which the La Casa Latino Cultural Center is located added a new neighbor, the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center, and another neighbor, the GLBT Student Support Services Office, was welcomed into the Office of the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Multicultural Affairs (OVPDEMA) family, Casillas-Origel, La Casa’s director, decided to incorporate the neighborhood into the celebration.
“The Day of the Dead celebration started at IU because we wanted folks to understand the culture, that it was not something scary like Halloween, but that it was centered around remembering those who have passed, our loved ones, whether they’re family members or friends,” explained Casillas-Origel, who said the celebration has occurred at IU for multiple decades. “In Mexico, we celebrated it as a communal celebration—not only the family, but with the whole neighborhood and then at the cemetery.”
Casillas-Origel reached out to Doug Bauder, the director of the GLBT Student Support Services Office, about setting up an altar and incorporating his center into the celebration. Additionally, the First Nations Educational and Cultural Center had recently moved into its new location, making the event a way to make the IU community more familiar with the move, as well as connect all three nearby OVPDEMA programs. La Casa’s next-door neighbors, Canterbury House, IU’s Episcopal Campus Ministries, were also invited to participate.