Every year, Drew celebrates Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, but this year the event was expanded and took on new heights. This was mainly in part to the Acorn’s own Kassel Franco Garibay (’20), who was awarded one of the CRCC’s Arts of Respect Paul Drucker Fellowships. The Arts of Respect Paul Drucker Fellowship awards $1,000 grants for students that speak of their goal to “promote greater understanding and respect using the arts as a medium of communication and expression,” according to their website.
Franco Garibay is a native of Mexico City and grew up celebrating Día de Muertos, which is her favorite holiday. When she first arrived at Drew she realized she would be missing the holiday for four years, but the Arts of Respect grant allowed her to change that. Día de Muertos is a day for remembrance of loved ones who have died. Traditions include building an ofrenda, or a private altar, on which calaveras (skulls), marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the deceased are placed.
COURTESY OF NINA CAMPLI
Franco Garibay has been planning this event since January. She pulled out the stops to make the event as authentic as possible. A three-leveled altar was constructed in Crawford Hall by the Drew community starting on Thursday, Nov. 1. In front of the altar Abby Brickner (’21) helped Franco Garibay put together the traditional carpet of sawdust, which is typically arranged in a floral design. She also purchased two sugar skulls from the Día de Muertos Festival in New York City. Members of the Drew community were invited to place items of their loved ones on the altar in Crawford. Among the offerings were books, photos, toys and names, which included the names of the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.
On Friday Nov. 2 the festivities continued again in Crawford Hall with a dinner from El Aguila Dorada from Bayonne, N.J. which featured tacos, flautas, rice, beans and much more. There was also Mexican soda, including Coca-Cola but made with real sugar instead of corn syrup. Around 7 p.m. the mariachi band, El Sol Mixteco arrived from New York. Once everyone had their food, the mariachi serenaded the crowd with traditional Mexican music. The sounds of people singing along and students dancing at the front of the hall marked that the crowd obviously enjoyed the mariachi.
All of the students who were there seemed to be having an amazing time. “My favorite part was the mariachi band. When they arrived, you knew it was real,” stated Stefanie Defronzo (’20). “We all got to sit back with a good meal and good music in the company of our fellow students (and ancestors).” Overall, the event was a huge success and over 160 students and faculty attended. Brianna Vazquez Smith (’19) said, “I loved the idea of sharing a part of someon’es culture because they aren’t at home to celebrate it because I am also far from home.” Franco Garibay has set the bar high for every future Día de Muertos celebration and hopefully next years will be even bigger than this years.