ISEC, WKU Spanish Club host Día de los Muertos celebration


Sean McInnis

Valery Garcia (left) and Veronica Portillo prepare for the celebration of Dia de los Muertos at Downing Student Union on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.

Molly Dobberstein and Sean McInnis

The WKU Spanish Club paired with the Intercultural Student Engagement Center to bring Dia De Los Muertos celebrations to campus on Thursday, Nov. 3.The organizations set up in Downing Student Union Nite Class for a night filled with food, culture and dancing, open to all students. 

Veronica Portillo, an Intercultural Student Engagement Center graduate assistant, was one of the main organizers of the event. Portillo said this was an event she had previously organized at her other university that she wanted to bring to WKU. 

“It gives students a moment to learn about the holiday,” Portillo said, “Having that sense of community, really that’s what I was hoping to get out of these events this week.”

For a long time, Spanish Club events were hosted on Zoom, which is not as beneficial to students as in person interactions, Carolyn Brueggemann, president of the Spanish Club, said. With the collaboration with ISEC, they were able to have in person events to involve more students. 

WKU students make Dia de los Muertos inspired art during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos at Downing Student Union on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (Sean McInnis)

The group set up an “ofrenda” with the Spanish Club on Monday, Oct. 31 in DSU as an extension of the Dia De Los Muertos festivities.

“I feel like that was a great thing to bring to WKU because there haven’t been a lot of ofrendas set up on campus,” Bruggemann said. 

Bruggemann said an ofrenda consists of photos in order to remember loved ones who have passed.

“Dia De Los Muertos is a holiday in Latin America and Spain,” Brueggemann said. “You basically celebrate the lives of your loved ones who have passed away.” 

On Tuesday, Nov. 1, the group also had a showing of the Disney movie “Coco,” which is centered around Dia De Los Muertos, said Portillo. Students were able to learn more about the deeper meaning of Coco and connect on a deeper level, Portillo said. 

“Lots of students got emotional because they were able to talk about and share a good memory about a loved one, friend, or even pet that passed away,” Portillo said. 

Many different countries celebrate the same general idea of the holiday under different names, Yertty Vandermolen, a Spanish instructor, said. Vandermolen helped Portillo bring her idea of the event to life by helping organize. 

Vandermolen said food was brought to the event, including empanadas, which are a staple in Spanish cuisine. Students were invited to grab a plate, color and interact with other students as they waited for the dance instruction to begin.

WKU students eat empanadas during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos at Downing Student Union on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (Sean McInnis)

Gabriela Vargas Berroa, a senior, and Julia Rivas, recruitment coordinator for Equity and Diversity in teaching and Dance Fitness instructor at the Preston Center, joined together to teach dance to those who attended the event. They taught songs and dance styles like salsa and merengue, Vargas Berroa said. 

Dance instructor, Julia Rivas, teaches different Spanish dances to attendants of the Dia de los Muertos celebration at Downing Student Union on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (Sean McInnis)

More information about ISEC and the WKU Spanish club can be found on their Instagram, @wkuisec and @wkuspanishclub_. 

News reporter Molly Dobberstein can be reached at [email protected]