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Institute Informs Public About Day of the Dead

Local residents and University officials celebrated the unification of the living with the dead Sunday with a slide show and presentation of artifacts.

Sharon Mujica, the outreach director of Latin American Studies at UNC and Duke University, presented a slide show for the public to commemorate the Day of the Dead, a national holiday in Mexico.

"It's to bring back in memory the people that you miss and that you love," Mujica said, "and to sort of turn death into something that is more life-giving than is scary and isn't discussed."

The Chapel Hill Institute for Cultural and Language Education, located at 412 W. Franklin St., hosted the event.

Mexicans celebrate the Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 and 2. The first day coincides with All Saints Day, celebrated by the Catholic Church.

"It's a national holiday more than a religious holiday," Mujica said. "If you are in Mexico on those days you have to celebrate it."

About 15 people came to Sunday's presentation to learn more about the Mexican holiday, including Kathy Bruch, a Durham resident who said she is traveling to Mexico for the holiday.

"I thought it was very nice because I'm about to go to Mexico to the Day of the Dead," Bruch said. "So it will get me in the spirit."

The slide show highlighted the preparations Mexicans make to the inside of their homes and the decorations they place on their family's alter. The presentation also focused on how Mexicans visit the tombs of deceased family members on the night of Nov. 2.

The alters are decorated with flowers, Day of the Dead bread, skulls and pictures of deceased family members. The flowers, mostly marigolds and chrysanthemums, are placed on the ground from the doorway to the alter in hopes of bringing in spirits.

"Flowers are very important for the Day of the Dead," Mujica said. "They don't tend to use artificial flowers.

Miriam Polacio, program manager for the institute, said there is a slide show or movie at 5 p.m. every Sunday at the institute to promote education about Spanish culture.

"It's a public service," Polacio said. "Because (the people at the institute) are all interested in Spanish culture."

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