Altar honors people who have died of HIV/AIDS

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Students from SOMAS CHICANX and GALA make an alter to honor loved ones for the LGBTQ History Month Dia De Los Muertos Nov. 1 in Chance. The two groups recognized at the alter are trans women of color and people who died from HIV and AIDS. Deandra Gonzalez

Day of the Dead can be traced back to indigenous populations in Mexico.

By Sarah Centento

More than 50 students and faculty gathered in Chance Academic Center Nov. 1 to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, marking the first time this college’s observation has been dedicated to those who have died of HIV/AIDS.

Dia De Los Muertos is an annual celebration to honor the spirits of the dead, observed in Mexico and other Latin American countries on Nov. 1 and 2, according to

History Professor Marianne Bueno was in charge of the event.

“This event is a part of the LGBTQ history month here at SAC, but today we are celebrating Dia De Los Muertos, Day of the Dead,” Bueno said.

This was the first time Dia De Los Muertos at this college was dedicated to people who have lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and to transgender people of color, Bueno said.

The altar was decorated with sugar skulls, sweet bread, religious candles and flowers.

Members of Gay, Ally, and Lesbian Association and Somos Chicnx gave presentations and helped set up the altars.

Somos Chicanx is a student organizatio that promotes Mexican-American studies.

“We are able to educate the SAC community about the cultural tradition of Dia De Los Muertos as well as educate the SAC community about the issues the LGBQT community deals with in their everyday lives,” Bueno said.

GALA Ppresident Juan Marinez, education sophomore, spoke about students who helped set up the altars.

“It’s part of the LGBQT History Month,” Bueno said. “It’s necessary to represent the people who aren’t often represented, which would be the transgender people of color and those who passed away from HIV/AIDS because its such a stigmatized disease people don’t normally want to speak about it.”

Bueno spoke about the origin of the tradition of Dia De Los Muertos.

“In Mexico, death is something to be celebrated, especially celebrating the memories of our loved ones who have passed,” Bueno said. “Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the indigenous populations such as the Olmec and the Maya. This ritual celebration of death has been a part of these civilizations for 3,000 years.”

The altars also had small “prayer boxes” for viewers to write their own prayers and put them in a box.

“We have a prayer box with some notecards if you would like to write a sentiment to your loved ones that has passed,” Bueno said. “We will have a burning ceremony for the prayers.”

Liberal arts sophomore Julissa Juarez, vice president of Somos Chicanx, spoke about the importance of this event.

“It’s a chance to incorporate our culture and also honor the victims that have passed from HIV/AIDS,” Juarez said. “It’s definitely a learning experience for everyone.”

Students can learn how to get involved with Somos Chicanx by emailing them at and with GALA by contacting


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