YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

EVENTS : Lively Manifestations of Dia de los Muertos

October 27, 1994|RUTHANNE SALIDO | Ruthanne Salido is a member of the Times Orange County Edition staff.

While the Day of the Dead is a time for connecting with the past, event organizers at Cal State Fullerton also want it to be an opportunity for students and community members to think about the future.

Toward that end, the California Literature Project and several other campus groups are using the occasion of El Dia de los Muertos--a Mexican holiday when people set up shrines in their homes and at grave sites for their dead loved ones--to stress not only culture, but also the importance of education.

They are counting particularly on two talks by acclaimed Chicano writer Victor Villasenor to make their point.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Villasenor will speak to about 500 high school students from all over Orange County on "The Power of Education." At 7 p.m., the public is invited to join CSUF students, faculty and staff members to hear Villasenor talk about "Latino Parents as Heroes."

Villasenor's lecture to the high school students "has the potential to be a lightning rod," said Jim Sieg, chairman of the California Literature Project leadership committee at CSUF. "He relates well not only to Latino kids, but to young kids struggling with their own voices."

One of Villasenor's most well-regarded books is a novel called "Rain of Gold" (Arte Publico Press, 1991), which chronicles three generations of his family and its immigration to California. The book has been called a Mexican "Roots." His first novel, "Macho!" (Bantam, 1973), was published at the peak of the migrant farm workers' movement in California.

His lectures at Cal State Fullerton are similarly well-timed, said student Monica S. Hernandez, 25, a member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA), one of the many groups involved in putting on El Dia de los Muertos celebration.

Amid an atmosphere of often-angry and heated debates resulting from Proposition 187, the state ballot measure that would eliminate educational and health services to illegal immigrants, Villasenor's message will be a positive one for immigrants and their children, Hernandez said.

"There won't be any immigrant-bashing," she said. She also said the author's lectures should serve as "an awakening" among Latinos to the realization that "education is for everybody."

"Chicanos need to empower themselves, and the only way to do it is through education," she said.

If anyone can convince students of the importance of empowerment, it is Villasenor, event organizers hope.

By his own written accounts, the author, now 54, struggled enormously through junior and senior high school.

His story should make students "reflect on their own lives and where they are," Hernandez said, "and where they could be tomorrow."

* What: El Dia de los Muertos.

* When: Events Saturday, Oct. 29, and Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 1 and 2. (See accompanying schedule.)

* Where: Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton.

* Whereabouts: Take the Orange (57) Freeway and exit at Nutwood Avenue; go west on Nutwood. Turn right on State College Boulevard and park in Lot A.

* Wherewithal: Parking is $1.50. Admission to all events is free.

* Where to call: (714) 773-3107.

El Dia de los Muertos

* Saturday, 7 to 9 p.m.: Opening reception for El Dia de los Muertos art exhibit, at the University Center Gallery and Courtyard. The courtyard will be decorated like a cemetery. The exhibit runs through Nov. 17. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.

* Tuesday, 9 a.m.: Drama by Luis Olivos Jr., playwright and actor, at the University Center, pavilions A and B.

* Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. and 7 p.m.: Lectures by Chicano writer Victor Villasenor, at the University Center, pavilions A and B. "The Power of Education" at 10:30 (invited high school students only); "Latino Parents as Heroes" at 7 (open to the public). Villasenor's books will be available for purchase and signing.

* Wednesday, noon: Lecture and slide show by Ann Murdy, photographer, on El Dia de los Muertos celebrations throughout Mexico and Los Angeles, in McCarthy Hall, Room 238.

Los Angeles Times Articles