Humans of UK: Ruth González Jiménez celebrates community and history on Día de los Muertos


Abbey Cutrer

Latino Student Community Specialist Ruth González Jiménezon poses for a portrait on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Abbey Cutrer | Staff

Emily Girard, Features Editor

Though Ruth González Jiménez was born in Jalisco, Mexico, she said she never traditionally celebrated Día de los Muertos, a holiday largely developed in Mexico.

“I celebrated more-so in the Catholic tradition, in the sense of All Saints Day,” she said. “(There were) other components that are very much Mexican, but we never had the ability to buy all the things we needed for an altar. So growing up in the United States, I never got to have that.”

Now, though, she coordinates UK’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration. On Nov. 1 from 6 p.m.-9 p.m., UK’s Martin Luther King Center held its sixth annual Día de los Muertos event at the Gatton Student Center. The event featured crafts, face painting, music, Latin American dances and a shared meal.

“The biggest love language is eating together,” González Jiménez said.

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is traditionally celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2. However, González Jiménez said that construction of the ofrenda, an altar honoring dead loved ones, can begin as early as Oct. 27. The altars are usually taken down on Nov. 3, but in a first-time move, UK’s ofrenda will remain in the student center for two weeks.

González Jiménez said that the event honors the unity of cultures at UK and in the wider Latino and Hispanic communities.

“Celebrations like this really highlight our indigenous roots, our African roots and of course, our colonial European roots,” González Jiménez said. “Particularly in the United States of America, where it’s a place that was created essentially for us, by us, by immigrants, by natives here, we come to share together.”

González Jiménez graduated from UK in 2017 with a degree in history. Currently, she works as the Latino Student Community Specialist at the MLK Center. She is also an alumnus of the Omicron Zeta chapter of the multicultural sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma, which collaborated with the MLK Center on the Día de los Muertos event.

González Jiménez said she hopes UK’s ofrenda will connect all students on campus to Día de los Muertos and allow them to honor lost loved ones, no matter what their cultural background.

“I have a grandfather who just passed, and you know, (I’m) dealing with that,” she said. “We’ve honored UK students who have passed away, or bigger, internationally known cases also, like Breonna Taylor and folks who have died to police brutality … I’ll honor the people who have come before us … or folks we never knew of but history tells us once existed.”