COLUMBIA — Every Nov. 1, Mari Morales's mother, who lives in Mexico City, tells her about the bread she has made for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The bread is sweet and round, and the top is fashioned to look like overlaid bones.
Morales, who left Mexico City to attend graduate school at MU, missed the bread and her family. However, she was able to find comfort in the Dia de los Muertos celebration Centro Latino hosted Friday night.
Dia de los Muertos is typically observed on Nov. 1 and 2, and originated in Mexico, Morales said. The holiday celebrates the lives of those who have died.
About 60 people came out to view a traditional altar decorated by Centro Latino and to enjoy a dinner of tamales, pozole soup and pumpkin pie.
"They have the best tamales in Columbia," Morales said.
The funds from the dinner help operating costs and Centro Latino programs, MU junior Nicole Crespi said. She helps her father, Eduardo Crespi, run Centro Latino. The dinner was also part of international food series Centro Latino is hosting, in which each month the organization makes and sells food of a different culture.
"Our goal with the place, with the kitchen, is to bring fresh produce and healthy food to the neighborhood," Nicole Crespi said. "Anything we do here is good for the community because it brings life to a place that used to be rundown and scary."
Morales' husband, Jon Frost, said he likes that everything served at the celebration was fresh and healthy. Most of the food was grown in community gardens or in Centro Latino's garden. No dairy or meat was served, Nicole Crespy said, because Centro Latino didn't find it healthy.
Morales said she thinks Centro Latino is good for things other than its delicious cuisine.
"It's great for Latinos to come and get reconnected with their roots, and for people who are not Latinos to learn about the culture," Morales said.
Throughout the dinner, Centro Latino's altar displayed a miniature skeleton mariachi band and pictures of Centro Latino volunteers who had died, as well as dead notable figures such Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez. Morales said that when she went to school in Mexico City, her school would encourage her to bring in pictures of role models who were dead to place at the school's altar.
This Dia de los Muertos, Morales thought of her grandmother, the only grandparent she knew. Her grandmother died a couple of years ago, but loved to cook for the family. Morales loved her grandmother's traditional Mexican cuisine and the way she cooked tortillas from scratch.
"That would be her joy — to cook for us," Morales said.
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