By Diego Dela Rosa
Spanish teacher Ana Rosa Munoz celebrated Dia de los Muertos on Nov. 3 with her classes, making it the first time she has practiced this holiday at BVH. Munoz makes it a point to hold this celebration because it coordinates with the curriculum of the Spanish courses.
“My hopes are that [the celebration] enlightens each of the different ethnicities here on campus to look beyond and see that we all have something to contribute, not just limited to the Mexican culture, but other cultures as well,” Munoz said
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday focused on venerating the souls and lives of people who have passed away. During this day of celebration Munoz handed out Pan de Muerto, Mexican sweet bread that is traditionally eaten for the holiday that is decorated with sugar to represent bones. She also taught her students about the significant holiday items and what they represent.
“We go over the cempasuchil (marigolds), which are flowers that depict how it is believed that the spirits are going to find their way by seeing the brightness of those petals of the flowers. We talk about las calacas (skeletons) and how they continue to live in the world beyond,” Munoz said.
The holiday is separated into three days, each with distinct intentions. Munoz had her students get ready for her classroom celebration on Nov. 3 by completing projects on each of these days.
“During the days we were preparing by constructing [paper] coffins. We were involved with the whole process to have a more in depth understanding,” Munoz said.
Although the class made coffins, many others who celebrate create altars or decorate the tombstones of their loved ones. For some, this is a very meaningful holiday.
“It is to celebrate the people that we love who have passed away, to reach out to them and let them know that they are here with us no matter what,” junior and Spanish 3-4 student Ezrah Guerrero said.
Munoz has taught within the SUHSD for almost thirty years. The location of the school district is one of the reasons she celebrates this holiday.
“Since we have such a strong connection to Mexico, people in the community should have more of an understanding of what their culture is,” Munoz said.
Even though the holiday goes all the way back to Mayan civilization, many students are unfamiliar with it. Introducing this holiday to Spanish students helps create a deeper knowledge.
“Learning about Day of the Dead in a Spanish class will help tie together real world applications of the language. By learning these things I have been able to understand the world around me,” sophomore and Spanish 3-4 student Ariana Stratton said.
In addition, exposure to Dia de los Muertos offers more than just knowledge on the Spanish language and culture. Participating in this holiday enables some students of Latin descent to make a more personal connection to the holiday.
“I am half mexican myself and I don’t celebrate the Day of the Dead. I want to connect back to my family. I will definitely look into celebrating again,” Stratton said.
Munoz also wants to show global outlooks on general ideas, such as death. By introducing students at BVH to the holiday she is able to contrast western and Latin ideologies.
“The western civilization see death as being so finalized and mysterious. People fear it. The indigenous culture doesn’t see it that way, they see it as a celebration to continue beyond the state of living,” Munoz said.
Celebrating Dia de los Muertos with her students is something that Munoz plans to continue in the upcoming years. It allows students to not only learn about the holiday, but also learn many different aspects of the world.
“It is extremely important to learn about these cultures in high school because if we open our minds and embrace other cultures it will lead us to eventually move away from hatred towards other cultures,” Stratton said. “If we educate ourselves then we can learn and not have a reason for hatred.”