Spirits of passed GSU figures to be honored this Wednesday

Tayler Critchlow

Georgia Southern University’s colonial Latin American history class will open the museum exhibit “Day of the Dead” on Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“The Mexican holiday Day of the Dead is all about remembering your deceased loved ones and making offerings to them,” Anna Alexander, Ph.D., assistant professor of Latin American history, said.

Families decorate altars in honor of the deceased and decorate them with candles, marigolds, which are considered the flower of the dead, incense and the favorite possessions of the loved ones.

Things like cigarettes, if the deceased smoked, or chocolates and candies can be placed on the altar. Anything that that person would have liked, Alexander said.

The students in colonial Latin American history class replicated this tradition of altars by separating into four groups and building GSU themed altars in honor of Erk Russell, Marvin Pittman, Seattle the Eagle and the whale buried under Sweetheart Circle.

“For Erk we are going to have pictures of Erk Russell, cigars, because he loved cigars, lemonade, Eagle Creek water, GSU championship flags, cookies, because he loved cookies, and just a ton of things that signifies Erk Russell. And on the ground you make a cross out of candles,” Zach Watson, senior history education major, said.

The group honoring Seattle the Eagle will have pictures of Seattle, candles, decorated sugar skulls, crosses and a papier-mâché hanging eagle, Atia Scott, senior political science major, said.

“There is going to be a huge altar where people can bring stuff for a family member and it’s going to show respect for those family members. For me, I’m going to bring a picture of my father who passed so I can show respect to him,” Josh Mackrill, junior anthropology and international studies major, said.

Though the holiday is a time of remembrance for those passed, it is not a somber event. The holiday is one of celebration.

“They’ll have barbecue, they’ll play cards, they’ll play volleyball in the graveyard. They’re just hanging out, having a party at the cemetery so it’s really not a sad thing at all. It’s a nice way to cope and kind of grieve,” Alexander said.

El Sombrero Restaurant will cater, the theater group will do Day of the Dead face paintings, there will be presentations about the altars, live music will be played and it will be a big party to kick off the exhibits’ opening, Alexander said.

The exhibit is free and will remain open for the rest of the month, but the festivities will only be held on the first day.

“Part of what Day of the Dead is, it’s mocking being dead, kind of, like everyone has to die and everyone has to experience that so let’s kind-of mock it and embrace it,” Alexander said.

Day of the Dead starts at midnight on Oct. 31 and continues until Nov. 2, incorporating the Catholic holidays All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

It is believed that the gates between heaven and earth are opened on these days, and loved ones who have passed on are able to return during this time to be with family members who are still living.

Watson said, “Diversity is everywhere when you go anywhere. People can think that Statesboro is its own little bubble, but when you graduate you have to go out and experience diversity of the world and it expands your knowledge and it’s never bad to keep learning about things.”