Día de los Muertos Ofrenda

For many years, we have commemorated Día de los Muertos with a beautiful ofrenda near Our Lady's Chapel, decorated with symbols and signs of the season, skulls and skeletons (reminding us that death is just part of life), and most importantly, with pictures of those whom we wish to honor. These altarcitos, or “little altars,” are not only created to help us remember, but also to learn about and celebrate the lives of our family, friends, and mentors.

Below are ofrendas from departments around campus. These ofrendas will remain set up through Nov. 18.

If you missed the All Souls' Day Memorial video, watch it here: All Souls' Day Mass Memorial Video.

Here are ways to participate in our month-long time of remembering:

  • Share photographs of your deceased loved ones and friends on the ofrenda outside Our Lady’s Chapel. Please include your name, cell phone and email on the back of each photo if you wish them to be returned.
  • Sign our Book of Remembrance in the hallway near Our Lady’s Chapel.
  • If you, your department, or school have set up an ofrenda, take some pictures and let us know – especially if yours is a “public” ofrenda that others can visit! We have compiled a Pictorial Directory of these places of remembrance from our UIW campuses and Brainpower schools. All pictures should be sent to with “Ofrenda pictures from (your name)” in the subject line.
  • Spend some quiet time in Our Lady’s Chapel or a chapel/prayer space in your school. Pews are available immediately near the ofrenda outside Our Lady’s Chapel. There is no better way to honor the memory of a loved one than through prayer.

If you are interested in building your own ofrenda but don’t know where to begin, here are a few helpful websites:

Many people keep a small altarcito up year-round, so it’s never too late to set up a place to honor and remember your loved ones.

For more information, please contact Lena Gokelman or Carmen Aguilera at

What is Día de los Muertos?

Neither Halloween nor the feast of All Saints evoke such a long popular response as does the feast of All Souls, El Día de los Difuntos, el Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), on Nov. 2.

Devotion to Las Ánimas del Purgatorio (the holy souls in purgatory) has been part of the Hispanic piety over the centuries. In Texas, there is a remnant of an old pagan custom of bringing food to the dead for their journey. The custom has been Christianized with the blessing of the El Pan de Muertos (the bread of the dead): small loaves of sweet bread baked in the shape of human figures are presented with the gifts at Mass and blessed and distributed at the end of the celebration. Within some communities, Nov. 1 is the day to remember those who have died as children, while Nov. 2 is dedicated to remember the rest of family members, “our very own saints.” It was believed that on this date, God allowed the souls of the dead, especially those in Purgatory, to come back to earth to visit the places in which they had lived.

On the evening of Nov. 1, the families left the pan de muertos on the dinner table for the souls who might come to visit during the night. The “leftovers” of the meal of the souls were joyfully eaten by the family at breakfast on the following day. (The feast is much more elaborate in Mexico, where Calaveras (skulls), made of sugar or chocolate, are a popular buy for children, as well as los entierritos (a toy made with a shoebox, paper figures in a funeral procession that move entering into the box and coming out on the other side). The dead are not the object of fear and dread but are friendly ancestors who can sweeten the life of the living interceding for them with God.

Excerpt taken from: Mexican American Cultural Center. Faith Expressions of the Hispanics in the Southwest 3rd Edition. San Antonio: MACC, 2003