Health Sciences celebrates Día de los Muertos

Nov. 15, 2023
Three women wearing flowers in their hair, clap and laugh in an outdoor setting.

Staff from the University of Arizona Health Sciences Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion enjoy the mariachi music during the UArizona Health Sciences Día de los Muertos celebration of life. (From left) Alma Aguirre, Med-Start program manager; Maria Hernandez, administrative associate; and Eliza Yellow Bird, PhD, director of student services, helped organize the annual event.

In late October and early November several colorful “ofrendas,” or altars, appeared around the University of Arizona Health Sciences campuses in celebration of Día de los Muertos. This celebration of life evolved out of the melding of pre-Hispanic Indigenous traditions in Mexico and the Christian All Souls Day. It is a happy, colorful celebration where death is honored and the deceased are remembered and celebrated with photos, gifts and food.

For the past 16 years, Alma Aguirre, Med-Start program manager in the UArizona Health Sciences Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, has built an ofrenda for the Health Sciences community to enjoy and remember loved ones who have died. The ofrenda started out small, in the corner of her office in 2007. In 2013 she was invited to create a larger ofrenda in the Health Sciences Library.

On Nov. 2, about 50 people gathered at the ofrenda for a short blessing by Joe Fitzgerald, staff chaplain at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. Members of the Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School’s Mariachi las Aguilitas played music during the blessing and at the celebration afterward. The altar will be up until Nov. 21.

After the blessing ceremony, over 100 people gathered for food, refreshments, Mexican sweet breads and more mariachi music in the Hippocrates Courtyard.