OCTOBER 26, 2020 — When classes shifted to virtual learning, honors students in Alegra Lozano’s Día de los Muertos course had to get creative.
The course, HON 3503, challenges students to create an ofrenda, a traditional Mexican altar with a collection of objects, placed on display during Day of the Dead commemorations. Students reimagined the Mexican ritual and, in doing so, created an ofrenda completely online—the first of its kind at UTSA.
In previous years, students collaborated with museum staff at the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures where the class would build a physical altar and share it with the community as part of a Day of the Dead exhibit.
This year, the students created a fully digital, interactive exhibit and, in partnership with ITC staff, are hosting it on the museum’s website for the community to experience virtually.
“Normally we would attend the exhibit in person with all our friends, family and the community,” said Daphnie Escobedo, a junior politics and law major. “This new format allows us to commemorate and celebrate within the safety of our homes while still including the public.”
“An Endless Connection,” the theme of the exhibit, explores the concept of Day of the Dead as a bridge between those who are living and those who have passed.
It also serves as a bridge between those visiting the online exhibit and the students who built it. One section includes an interactive portal where visitors can submit their own contribution to the ofrenda.
“Our mission was to inspire our audience to appreciate the beauty and culture of Day of the Dead, and we encourage everyone to contribute to it,” said Brittany Sheets, a senior psychology major. “We welcome poems, prayers, letters, and any quotes or thoughts visitors may have regarding loved ones.”
The Day of the Dead course explores cultural and psychological themes of grieving and remembrance along with commodification and commercialization of tradition.
Lozano, who has taught the class three previous years, encourages her students to embrace the team project as a way to gain real-world experience and marketable skills through holistic, experiential learning. Her course outcomes include creative courage, agency through accomplishment, project management and intellectual dexterity.
Lozano’s students have embraced the challenge and have said they gained valuable experience about a significant cultural event.
“We have all been blindsided by COVID-19 in some way or another,” Escobedo said. “Academically, we have been faced with new challenges in collaborating entirely online with our peers. This project has offered our class an opportunity to show off our tech skills, our communication skills, and the creativity students at UTSA have to offer.”
Visit “An Endless Connection,” a virtual Day of the Dead exhibit, online at TexanCultures.utsa.edu/exhibits.