As the sun sets on Nov. 1, the scents, melodies and vibrant colors that fill Día de los Muertos altars are said to wake the dead and bring them to visit their loved ones in their dreams. This year, Bryan Tamayo hopes to give students an opportunity to experience this tradition.
Tamayo, an engineering junior and the president of UT’s Sigma Lambda Beta-Eta Alpha chapter, will help the fraternity construct an altar for Día de los Muertos from 6 to 9 p.m. on Nov. 1 on the Main Mall. The altar will honor deceased members of the international fraternity, focusing on the life of Michael “Corazon Antibalas” Mesa, a member of the Huston-Tillotson chapter of the fraternity.
“We had a brother who sadly passed away a couple of months ago, and we are going to not only honor him because he came from a chapter that was close to us, but also take a moment to honor all of the other brothers who have passed away,” Tamayo said. “[We want to] take a [moment] for the audience to remember their family members and think about a memory they have with them and how it affected their lives.”
Tamayo said although they will have the traditional celebratory elements of Día de los Muertos such as music and pan de muerto, the fraternity hopes to focus the event on remembering lost loved ones. They will be inviting members and guests to bring images of the deceased to add to the altar.
“[Día de los Muertos] is being able to take a day and remember those people that passed away in your life and not just think about the death, but remember the good memories you had with them,” Tamayo said. “It is celebrated with altars, pan de muertos and different types of music.”
The fraternity allowed him to get in touch with his heritage and learn about his and other cultures. When Tamayo arrived at UT, he tried joining different Latino organizations on campus to get in touch with his roots. But it was only when he joined Sigma Lambda Beta he knew he had found his home.
“I was like, ‘This is the place for me,’” Tamayo said. “One of the main reasons I wanted to join was because one of the main principles is cultural awareness and that was something close to me because I really want to have that connection with my Latino background.”
Personally, Tamayo said his family celebrates the holiday in a traditional Mexican fashion, integrating their deceased ones’ favorite foods, pictures with their loved ones and memories from when they had all been together.
Celebrating the holiday has allowed Tamayo to experience unforgettable bonding moments with his family, in which their deceased have also been able to take part. Last year, Tamayo said he had the opportunity to learn about his uncle who had changed his life in more ways than he remembered.
“We decided that we needed to be together and remember his death, and we had a day when we just talked about the good times we had with him. I had a lot of memories, but I was too young to really remember them, so my family was telling me stories that I didn’t even remember,” Tamayo said. “It was really special because even though he is not with us today, he still had an impact in my life and shaped me into the person that I am today.”