The University of New Mexico LGBTQ Resource Center celebrated Día De Los Muertos by decorating sugar skulls and participating in other activities during the week. The festivities closed with an altar blessing Thursday to remember lost loved ones in the LGBTQ community.
The shrine was adorned with candles, sugar skulls, flowers, flower petals and images of deceased friends and family.
“A part of the LGBTQ experience is that we consider each other family,” said Frankie Flores, a staff member at the LGBTQ Resource Center. “We do this to honor our loved ones who have passed, those who have been watching and guiding over us the past year.”
The ceremony began with the traditional burning of the copal, an incense used for honoring lost loved ones. According to tradition, this incense is believed to summon and comfort these spirits.
Flores led the traditional copal smudging, which included praying to the four directions, praying to the sky and the earth and blessing participants with the copal. Flores surrounded those blessed with smoke from the burning incense, as the participants stood with their palms open outward — some closed their eyes during the spiritual practice.
This was followed by a traditional meal of beans, tortillas, chicken, rice and molé, made by Flores.
The first serving of the food was dedicated to the altar, to pay respects to the deceased loved ones. After this serving, attendees were able to grab a plate of the homemade meal for themselves.
This Día De Los Muertos tradition has been celebrated by the LGBTQ Resource Center for the past seven years.
“In the past, we’ve decorated sugar skulls,” Flores said. “We have even done a few workshops explaining the cultural significance of Día De Los Muertos.”
This tradition is one that is familiar to many members of the community who have been raised in traditional Hispanic culture.
“Día De los muertos has been a very strong part of my family,” Flores said. “I wanted to bring something that is a part of the heritage of my family to my family here, at UNM.”
The next event for the LGBTQ Resource Center will be in honor of the Transgender Day of Remembrance on Nov. 20. The center plans to host a potluck, speakers discussing their experiences living as transgender people in Albuquerque and a vigil to pay respects to loved ones lost as victims of violent hate crimes.
“(Holding these events) is important, because I feel that nationally we are now in a space where our cultures and cultural practices are being questioned” Flores said.
Rebecca Brusseau is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers the LGBTQ community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @r_brusseau.