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Día de los Muertos celebrates the dearly departed

Aaron Montes

Halloween is mostly seen as a holiday to get free candy, dress up like Darth Vader for fun and tell chilling stories about legendary monsters and ghosts who go bump in the night.

Yet another holiday follows close behind. The traditional Mexican holiday of Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) will be celebrated at 4 p.m. Nov. 2 at Concordia Cemetery 3700 E. Yandell.

“It’s our honor to celebrate and remember those who have helped make El Paso what it is today,” Collete Maes, El Paso del Norte Paranormal Society investigator said. “Many El Pasoans today have relatives who are buried there and this is a way for them to come out and honor their families.”

Maes also said Concordia holds a special significance for the community. Apart from its annual festival, guests can enjoy fun music, interact with a fortune teller and explore the many graves featured in this historical landmark.

“Día de Los Muertos brings people together every year who love this cemetery and want to preserve it,” Maes said. “El Paso history is buried right here in Concordia and it should never be forgotten.”

Tradtionally held Nov. 1-2 in Mexico and some parts of the United States, this holiday celebrates the passing of loved ones and friends. Sugar skulls and other spiritually oriented food are placed on the gravesites of the deceased to welcome the dead after their long journey from their world to ours.

“I think Día de Los Muetros is a more meaningful version of Hallo- ween,” said Thomas Correa, freshman engineering major. “It celebrates our loved ones that have passed away, whereas Halloween is a night where we would dress up to keep evil spirits away and get candy from strangers.”

Correa said that although Día de Los Muertos is considered a Mexican tradition, the Hispanic community has shared this special celebration and the meaning behind it with the rest of the non-Hispanic population.

“There is a lot of Hispanic descendants, along with those who have been exposed to the culture and take a liking to it,” Correa said.

Sharing Correa’s views, Miguel Angel Miranda, freshman studio art major, also said it’s important to celebrate Día de Los Muertos since it gives everyone a special opportunity to remember those who have passed away and left something special in our hearts.

“Halloween is more childish. People don’t really seem to care about those who have left them and (they) decide to continue their lives as time goes on,” Miranda said. “Being part of my heritage, however, Día de Los Muertos is more special to me, since it’s been a tradition in my family for generations, and therefore I feel proud to celebrate it, and even more when UTEP hosts a memorial on this day.”

Miranda said that although he has never had the opportunity to go to Concordia’s annual festival or ghost tours, he is open to giving it a try.

“It sounds interesting.  I would probably have a heart attack though, but only from excitement,” Miranda said.

Concordia Cemetery is considered the true “City of the Dead,” having it’s first burial in 1856. According to Maes, the cemetery has more than 60,000 burials, including gunfighter John Wesley Hardin, lawman John Selman, Lady Florida Wolfe, war veterans going back to the Civil War and Texas Rangers.

On Maes’s latest ghost tour around Concordia, she encountered paranormal activity.

“On our ghost tours, we have caught what appears to be a little girl with a bonnet leaning on a headstone, a silhouette of a cowboy and the apparition of a little boy,” Maes said. “We have also heard voices, the sound of horses, screams, shadows running along the walls and footsteps that appear to be following us down to Hell’s Gates, which is the pauper section of the cemetery.”

Whether you celebrate it or not,  Día de Los Muertos should be a day to spend time with loved ones, dead or alive. Cultures in the borderland blend, as families tend to celebrate this holiday along with the costumes and candy of modern-day Halloween.

“Although Halloween is of Celtic roots and Día de Los Muetros has an Aztec background, they both remember, honor and celebrate the dead, but in their own unique ways,” Maes said.

Ashley M. Muñoz may be reached at [email protected].


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Día de los Muertos celebrates the dearly departed