WENATCHEE — Wenatchee Valley College students gathered Friday to remember loved ones who had passed.

The students participated in Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a Hispanic ceremony that remembers and celebrates family’s loved ones who have passed, said Marichuy Alvizar, Wenatchee Valley College diversity and inclusion coordinator. It is believed during the ceremony that the spirits of loved ones return from the grave and visit.

“I think it is important for students to know other cultures and not only that but like personally my family is from Mexico,” Alvizar said. “But I didn’t grow up with any of this. We did a traditional Halloween and that was it.”

The hallways of the Van Tassell Center were filled with altars featuring pictures from popular musicians to students’ family members. The altars held offerings of food, drink or items that people loved in life. There were also candles to show spirits the way back home and bright colors to celebrate their lives.

Students put up an altar to Rachel Odima, a student who died after a car crash in May.

Two students, Emilio S. Garcia and Lizbeth Rivera-Estrada, came a presentation on the holiday and explained its cultural significance for them.

On the Day of the Dead families will go to the cemetery and place things like food and flowers on the graves of their family members, Garcia said. They may even play music, depending on what that person enjoyed in life.

The celebrations also can last more than one day, with different days representing different groups of family members, he said. For example, one day is for children who have died.

“I was close with my grandma and for me it was a hard moment when she passed away,” Garcia said. “When we put her photo on the altar it meant a lot because she means a lot to me.”

Rivera-Estrada wore a beautiful beaded necklace with a golden flower for the day’s celebration. The necklace was from her aunt who has since passed, she said.

“She called it a sun flower, just a very vibrant flower, and it is said to attract and be beautiful and imparted by the gods and really uphold power and beauty,” Rivera-Estrade said.

The celebration is a learning experience for students, Alvizar said. Last year, students were picking up, eating and drinking some of the offerings that had been laid on the altars, thinking it was free food.

“For one of the altars they offer bread and refreshments and they put candy and people were eating it,” she said. “They took it from the altar they were eating the oranges.”

Now signs by the altars explain that they are offerings and ask children not to take the food.

Tony Buhr: 664-7123

buhr@wenatcheeworld.com or

on Twitter @TonyBuhr