By Joaquin Herrera, Director of Communications
OCTOBER 27, 2021— In collaboration with the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, students in Professor Alegra Lozano’s Day of the Dead course created a virtual exhibit, taking visitors on a journey through a pueblito—or little town—explaining the history, traditions and cultural significance of a holiday celebrated by many of Mexican heritage across the country.
The exhibit titled “Celebrando Más Allá de la Vida,” which translates to “Celebrating Beyond Life,” was researched and designed by the honors students and includes hand-drawn illustrations created specifically for the project.
“Our exhibit is a vibrant celebration of the departed,” said class member Ithzel Dominguez, a junior biology major. “It focuses on making the holiday a community event by incorporating the theme of a small town.”
Students in the course explore cultural and psychological themes of grieving and remembrance customs and examine commodification and commercialization of tradition. They worked alongside ITC exhibit coordinator Cristina Winston, museum education and outreach specialist Kirstin Cutts and web developer Jenny Gonzalez on the experiential learning project.
“This was an opportunity for us to respect and learn more about cultures different from ours”
Alexis Ho, Sophomore Biology Major
“The course and the project work together to give students an opportunity to gain real-world training in developing cultural experiences for the public,” Cutts said. “They perform the research, they design the exhibit and they prepare a promotion plan so that the work can be shared not only with their peers but with audiences across the state and the country.”
The exhibit includes research on the history, food and many associated traditions that comprise Day of the Dead celebrations.
“This was an opportunity for us to respect and learn more about cultures different from ours,” said Alexis Ho, a sophomore biology major. “In the U.S., there is a large population that celebrates Day of the Dead—maybe even bigger in our own city— and some of us have never observed the holiday before.”
The exhibit will go live on the museum website on Oct. 29, just ahead of the time when the holiday is traditionally celebrated between Nov. 1-2.
The project marks the second year in a row in which students build a virtual exhibit in collaboration with the Institute of Texan Cultures staff. The COVID-19 pandemic created a need to shift the project online. In previous years, students in the class would build a physical ofrenda—a traditional altar that pays tribute to departed family members— at the museum.
“We built the ofrenda as a way to share our love of this beautiful celebration with our UTSA family and the San Antonio community,” Professor Lozano said.