Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Día de los Muertos Festivities Commence in Walla Walla

Leaves fall to the ground in vibrant flurries of red, yellow and orange as October comes to a close. Fall festivities, however, are just getting started as various groups on and off campus prepare for Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on Nov. 2nd.

Sophia Bianco, the Resident Assistant for the Casa Hispana interest house, collaborated with the Whitman Events Board (WEB) to create a Día de Los Muertos event for anyone interested in remembering their loved ones. For Bianco and her residents, the event not only celebrates a significant holiday, it also provides a segue for the Interest House Community (IHC) to begin working with WEB.

“[The event is] a collab with WEB, which I’ve never done before as an RA in the Interest House Community, but we’ve been really getting involved with other campus organizations this semester,” Bianco said. 

Aside from the event’s logistics and Bianco’s enthusiasm, the broader goal of Día de los Muertos at Whitman is to celebrate cultural inclusivity for Spanish-speaking students, members of the community and anyone with an interest in Hispanic culture. 

Recent years have seen live-in Language Assistants (LAs) disappear from language-based interest houses as outside funds for the IHC have decreased. Bianco and other Casa residents look forward to the event, happening on Thursday Nov. 2 in the Reid Ballroom, as an opportunity to strengthen connections amongst the Hispanic community on campus. Jonathan Becker, another Casa Hispana resident who suggested working with WEB for a Day of the Dead celebration, agreed with Bianco.

“I think the IHC partnering with WEB is a fantastic idea. Those of us who live in the IHC are super passionate about sharing our interests with the Whitman community. Members of WEB are passionate about putting events on for the whole campus. The collaboration makes perfect sense,” Becker said. 

Both Bianco and Becker were grateful for the opportunity to work with WEB and to expand the Casa Hispana’s connections to the greater Spanish-speaking communities. They attributed much of the event’s organization to Jacqueline Luna, who works as a Music and Entertainment Director for WEB’s events board. 

“Setting up an ofrenda in Reid was Jacqueline [Luna’s] idea, and she is the one who told me to ask my housemates if they would be interested in participating,” Becker said.

The ofrenda, which was also available to students last year in Olin, will now be available to all students in Reid Campus Center under Luna’s direction. 

Beyond campus, the broader Walla Walla community is also preparing to celebrate Día de los Muertos. Local business owner Manny Perez, who operates Grandma’s Kitchen on Colville Street, is excited to share festivities with a parade downtown and an ofrenda in the restaurant’s basement. This year will be Grandma’s Kitchen’s ninth year of celebrating Día de los Muertos with the community. 

“This will be the ninth consecutive year that we set up our altar downstairs in our basement, during the pandemic it was closed for ambassadors, but now it’s open again,” Perez said. 

Like the Casa Hispana residents, Perez is looking forward to the parade and celebration on Nov. 2 as a way to foster community and revitalize cultural institutions in the Walla Walla Valley. Perez and other business owners worked to organize the parade, which will include booths representing various businesses as well as family-friendly activities.

“I had been surprised and amazed how many other people are supporting us [and] promoting our event, that means a lot,” Perez said. 

Perez also expressed his excitement to see more people in the community publicly celebrating the Día de los Muertos. 

“I just like to see everybody participating in this event. I’m hoping that next year, we get more groups — like the volleyball team, you know, basketball team, soccer team and other groups from different schools and communities,” Perez said.

For him and organizations on campus, celebrating the holiday with members of the greater Walla Walla community means forming important connections. 

This year, Día de Los Muertos will provide both an opportunity to remember passed loved ones and reignite Hispanic heritage and Spanish-speaking festivities after the constraints of changes in funding and COVID-19, making it an essential fall festivity.

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