Skip to main content
Campus and Community

Sharing Culture and Community: Scenes from Día de los Muertos

A figurine of festively-dressed skeletons dancing stands next to a cutout flag reading "Dia de los Muertos," surrounded by colorful cloth drapes and bright multicolored marigolds
Written By Larry Peña, Photos by Joe Johnston

At the beginning of November, the Cal Poly community celebrated Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead — a holiday observed by Mexican communities that honors the memories of loved ones. Traditional celebrations include the construction of altars called ofrendas, where families leave marigolds and favorite foods for the departed; sharing memories and visiting graves of loved ones; and giving gifts including the iconic decorated sugar skulls.

The celebration at Cal Poly, which was hosted by the Multicultural Center, took over the University Union Plaza and included discussions of the challenges facing the Latinx community and a fundraiser hosted by the American Indian Faculty and Staff Association.

“We have such a diverse community here, and the celebrations and cultures of that diverse population should be seen on this campus,” said Beya Makekau, director of Student Diversity and Belonging. “Having traditions like this shows people that they have a place here, and invites a sharing of culture and community. It's a really beautiful thing.”

Take a look at some moments from the celebration below.

A young man in a green sweatshirt arranges items on a brightly-decorated ofrenda at the University Union plaza


A cart full of marigold flowers rests on the top step of the UU plaza, as students in the background decorate ofrendas


Two young women wearing face coverings sit around a table in the ASI craft center, painting candy skulls with bright colors


A hand holds up a fist-sized white candy skull, decorated around the eyes with bright blue and gold paintings


Two young men drape cutout flags over ofrendas at the UU plaza


A close-up shot of an ofrenda, draped with bright striped cloth and featuring painted skulls, vintage photos and bouquets of marigolds

Don't want to miss any of the best Cal Poly News stories? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, the Cal Poly News Recap!