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UTSA students, ITC create digital exhibit commemorating Day of the Dead

UTSA students, ITC create digital exhibit commemorating Day of the Dead

Tomascastelazo, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

OCTOBER 27, 2021 — In collaboration with the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, students in Honors College 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.”

“We welcome students and UTSA community members to stop by and add items in remembrance of loved ones.”

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.

“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 at the end of October, just ahead of the time when the holiday is traditionally celebrated between November 1 and 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.

This year, as some courses returned to in-person instruction mid-semester, students built an altar in the honors student lounge on UTSA’s Main Campus. The group will host an opening reception and invite the UTSA community to visit and contribute to it from 1 to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27.

“We welcome students and UTSA community members to stop by and add items in remembrance of loved ones,” Lozano said. “We built the ofrenda as a way to share our love of this beautiful celebration with our UTSA family. There will be interactive activities for guests to either take with them or leave on the ofrenda.”

Visit the ITC Day of the Dead exhibit online.

The UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures gives voice to the experiences of people from across the globe who call Texas home, providing insight into our past, present, and future. A unit of the Vice President for Academic Affairs at The University of Texas at San Antonio, the ITC is a Smithsonian Affiliate. Resources for multiple audiences are available at the ITC website.

Joaquin Herrera

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