By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau
Thunder Alley was packed Thursday night as hungry students dined on tamales and flautas and watched the film “COCO,” the story of a boy who visits the Land of the Dead in a desperate attempt to defy his family’s traditions. For Latino Student Union president Leonardo Quintero, the dynamic event was all about presenting Mexican culture to the Grand Canyon University student body and implementing it into the culture of the Lopes.
Those goals continue today in the lobby of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences building, where CHSS Assistant Dean Dr. Noé Vargas and his staff have configured a Day of the Dead display, translated as Día de los Muertos in Spanish.
“We want to expose students of different cultures to the Mexican culture,’’ he said. “It is a time to remember family members and friends who have departed ahead of us. We take the time to celebrate their lives and the impact they had on our lives. It is a time of celebration, celebrating life more than celebrating death.’’
While there are many dearly departed Vargas reflects upon, including his parents, his grandfather, Jose González, was foremost on his mind Friday morning.
“My grandfather was a pastor, and he really influenced our family in the sense of the values we still hold,’’ he said. "Within my cousins, my aunts and uncles … my grandfather was really influential. He led a good life; he was good to others. He loved others as you love yourself. He was a great example of that, not just by words, but by example. I know all of my cousins, when we talk about my grandfather, we all have good memories of him.’’
Vargas is hopeful that when students, faculty and staff stop by the display they will gain a deeper understanding of Día de los Muertos.
“Learning about other cultures only helps you understand each other better,’’ he said.
As part of the two-day event, Vargas attended the Spanish showing of “COCO,” along with approximately 250 students, faculty and staff members, and their families. It was followed by the English language viewing, which drew approximately 200 students, faculty and staff members, and their families. Members of the Latino Student Union were strongly represented.
“There is no doubt that the Latino Student Union is growing,’’ Quintero said. “We went from having major events reach numbers of 80 members last year to having our first three club meetings reach those same numbers this year. The family value that is embraced by the Latino Student Union has allowed for Latinos/Hispanics and non-Latinos/Hispanics to find an equal platform to assemble.’’
The support of GCU’s Canyon Activities Board (CAB) has been instrumental in the growth of the club, which made the event special via decorations and delicious dishes, including arroz con leche (Mexican rice pudding), chocolate abuelita (Mexican hot chocolate), pan de muerto ("dead bread," a type of sweet roll), and conchas (shell-shaped Mexican sweet bread), along with the tamales and flautas.
Quintero, a senior from San Diego majoring in Information Technology with an emphasis in Cyber Security, was thrilled to see people young and old, come together to remember and to celebrate.
“There was an extreme and passionate joy at the moment of setting up the decorations, for we have seen our past generations taking on the task, and at that moment we were the ones to take it upon ourselves for the benefit of others in the GCU student community,’’ Quintero said. “There was even more joy to see the traditional food being set up. Being able to share our culture through the food is amazing for it is a universal way to love others without needing to be from the same upbringings, backgrounds, ethnicity or even language. It was an honor, not only to present our culture to the student body, but to attempt to implement it to the culture of the Lopes.‘’
Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or [email protected].