Oct. 26 2011 12:00 AM

Day of the Dead event attacks homophobia


This year’s Day of the Dead celebration
at Michigan State University will not only bring together the Latino
community, but the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community
as well.

“El dia de los Muertos,” as it is
traditionally known, is a festival in which families remember their
ancestors who have passed away. This year’s theme is homophobia
awareness, and events are scheduled throughout the Nov. 1 celebration
to honor victims of hate crimes.

“There have been so many tragic events
recently where young (homosexuals) have committed suicide,” said
Estrella Torrez, an assistant professor at the Residential College of
Arts and Humanities. She has been involved with MSU’s Day of the Dead
events for the past three years.

“This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s
really coming to the floor in the media right now. We thought, ’OK,
this is the time to try to address this hate crimes and violence that’s
occurring within (the Latino) community.’”

National events like National Coming Out
Day and Spirit Day recently took place to show support for the LBGT
community, but Torrez said homophobia isn’t discussed adequately within
the Latino population.

“It’s the same violence that happens in
other groups,” she said, “but it isn’t discussed as much as it may be
in other ethnic communities. We have this opportunity with the Day of
the Dead celebration to bring awareness and have dialog. We need to
accept our brothers and sisters regardless of sexual orientation, and
this is a great opportunity for that.”

This year, the celebration includes a
documentary called “Just Because I Am,” which is about LBGT people that
have been victims of violence or hate crimes. One of the subjects of
the film will speak later in the evening.

Traditional Aztec dance performances and
an “ofrenda” installation will also be featured during the program. An
“ofrenda” is an offering that is traditionally performed for the Day of
the Dead, and this year it is dedicated to gender-shifters.

“It’s incredibly important to celebrate the Latino
culture,” Torrez said. “A lot of times individuals don’t recognize that
there’s a significant Latino population in Michigan. This is one way
for us to share some of our beautiful culture and history with not just
MSU, but the Lansing and southeast Michigan communities.”

Day of the Dead

Begins at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 1

Michigan State University Museum. (517) 884-1327, or museum.msu.edu