Day of the Dead - Spanish 2 Project
The Spanish 2 teachers at Braden River High School want to share something special (and very exciting) that has become a positive tradition here. In a way to understand the Mexican holiday called Día de los Muertos, we have our students (in pairs) create ofrendas (aka altars in English), in memory of someone who has passed on, in addition to a complex, grammatical essay dedicated to the same person.
The Holiday We teach about this holiday for the same reason we teach about any other aspect related to the different cultures of the Spanish-speaking world: it helps us understand the background, perspectives and practices of the native speakers.
Día de los Muertos, which in English is translated as All Souls Day or Day of the Dead, is an old holiday that shares dual influences from both the Aztecs’ as well as the Catholic beliefs. The Aztecs believed that it was an honor to be sacrificed for the greater good if it meant a good harvest, a profit, food, etc., for their people. With their sacrifice, they were always remembered and it was believed that they began a new stage of their life, guaranteed to enter a better place. The Catholics however, disagreed with the sacrificial practices and as they tried to conquer the land and convert pagans to their religion. They wanted people to focus on saints, to pray for those who died as well as to pay their respects, reflecting the Catholic beliefs. Ultimately the holiday created its new form, combining both influences.
It begins on October 31st, when people in Mexico buy groceries, place flowers and decorate graves, as well as prepare for other events the holiday might bring. On November 1st, el Día de los Santos or Angelitos, they remember those who died in childhood or childbirth. That evening, all the family goes to the cemetery, where they not only pray, but also sing songs, listen to music, play bands, play games, etc., that their beloved deceased relative or friend loved, in the belief that their spirit is with them.
On November 2, they go back and have their family gatherings at home, where they have ofrendas (altars) in honor of their loved one. Most ofrendas include crosses, both reflecting the deceased’s beliefs as well as their hope that they have gone on to Heaven. Ofrendas usually include a path of marigolds that lead from the road inside, to guide the spirit back home; candles along this path to light the way; and water to offer to the spirit as they might be thirsty after such a long journey back from the after life. As one can tell, the duality of this holiday has created a venerable, yet fun, way of remembering their loved ones.
Our Competition These ofrendas, despite the name of the holiday, are affectionate, respectful and reflective portrayals of the deceased. They are created to honor that person, to celebrate their successes, to inform others of activities they may have enjoyed and to display why they were loved by all.
A special note is that last year we had 9 projects dedicated to the memory of our late and beloved, Coach Doug Garrity. Each project was made with intricate detail, recounting facets of his life and why they would miss him. As teachers of students who took his death hard and could barely function last year, we know that these projects were made from the heart and loved by all.
This is our 3rd annual competition where we have students from all of our Spanish 2 classes involved. We are hoping to fill most of the library with these ofrendas. It is quite an undertaking to complete a project like this. Consequently, knowing all of the students' efforts, and after seeing our Media Center (library) come to life en vivo, with colors, ofrendas, pictures, music, etc., everyone who gets an opportunity to see the exhibit has his or her breath taken away.
Our first year was the fall of 2008, and we are looking forward to another great year. Students will be receiving prizes for their ofrendas. In the past Best Buy and Poblano’s Restaurant have generously helped us to give gift certificates to the top ofrendas. We are working on the prizes for this year.
The ofrendas will be set up to celebrate this cultural event for the week of Nov. 1 through the 5th.
Audrey Irias, Sarah Smith and Steven Long
Click on the thumbnail to get the full-sized photo.
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Last modified: November 12, 2013