Beginning October 10, the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures (ITC) will partner with the UTSA Honors College and UTSA Libraries for a month-long observance of El Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican American celebration of the day of the dead. The collaborative celebration will include hands-on demonstrations on making nichos or shadow boxes dedicated to loved ones and will end with an exhibit at the ITC.
“El Dia de los Muertos” – The Day of the Dead – blends Christian and Indigenous Mexican beliefs and practices to honor deceased family members and friends. The celebration encompasses All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and its festive imagery has become visible in celebrations across the US and the world.
“Dia de los Muertos is a rich and varied tradition, one of significance to the UTSA and San Antonio community, and it is an ideal occasion for UTSA Libraries and the Institute of Texan Cultures to blend academic learning and a celebration of cultural heritage,” Ammi Bui the Libraries Student Engagement chair said. “Our collaboration affords us the opportunity to showcase both organizations’ extensive cultural and community resources to not just the UTSA community but to San Antonio as a whole and opens the door for partnering on other exciting events in the future.”
Each year, Alegra Lozano, assistant professor of practice in the Honors College offers an Honors Day of the Dead seminar class, which studies the long-practiced tradition of honoring the dead. The class culminates in a student-produced exhibit including a traditional altar, and other elements that are displayed at the ITC. This is the fifth year the class will be partnering with the ITC to make its project viewable to the public.
“This cultural observance has grown in significance and visibility over the last few years,” Lozano said. “Calaveras and sugar skull art motifs have become more mainstream and movies that are based on the celebration, such as The Book of Life and Coco, have had great success.”
The Honors College Day of the Dead class has chosen the title “Recuerdos Eternos: A Journey Back Home” (Eternal Memories: A Journey Back Home) as the title of their exhibit. They will create this year’s ofrenda (altar) around that theme while incorporating traditional elements such as marigold flowers, salt, water, incense, pictures, personal tokens, and religious icons.
“Our collaborative efforts shine a spotlight on an important piece of the heritage of so many Mexican Americans in this city and at our university,” Liz Lopez, ITC curator of education said. “The nicho classes and exhibit are about the foundational elements of El Dia, why it matters to Latine/x and Indigenous communities, how it is celebrated, and how it is becoming a part of our contemporary culture.”
In remembering those who have entered the next part of life, the ITC and Libraries invite the UTSA community and the general public to join one of the upcoming nicho-making workshops. The nicho boxes made at these workshops will then be displayed as part of an exhibit at the end of the celebration.
- Monday, October, 10, Noon-1 p.m. – Nicho Box Workshop – John Peace Library, Group Spot B (2nd floor), For UTSA Students only – limited number of attendees allowed – Register. The library will provide everything needed to create the nicho boxes. Attendees should bring a photo of their loved one or small object of remembrance that can fit in a 3.5x5x1 inch box.
- Friday, October 14 – Families waiting to observe El Dia can download a guide and other support materials courtesy of the ITC staff. Read more
- Sunday, October 16, 11 a.m. – Nicho Box Workshop – ITC – Register. The museum will provide everything needed to create the nicho boxes. Attendees should bring a photo of their loved one or small object of remembrance that can fit in a 3.5x5x1 inch box.
- Friday, October 21-Saturday, November 5 – Recuerdos Eternos: A Journey Back Home Exhibit Opens – ITC Bluebonnet Room – Open for Public Viewing. Read more
The public can follow the Honors College students’ progress in building their nichos and altar through their posts on TikTok (Recuerdos Eternos) and Instagram (@utsadayofthedead). They will share videos offering insights, FAQs, and other relevant materials.
The UTSA Honors College focuses on student development through one of the most experiential honors curricula in the nation. Its non-traditional, project-based approach provides students with unique opportunities outside of their major, empowering them to become leaders, develop as professionals, and reach intellectual achievement beyond coursework. As the only residential college at UTSA, the Honors College community is made up of roughly 1,800 high-achieving, academically driven students from across all majors and disciplines, including UTSA Top Scholars, Terry Scholars, and many of the university’s nationally award-winning students. Visit the Honors College to learn more.