Dia de los Muertos Altar Contest

Riley Goodfellow, Staff Writer

The fall season is known for celebrating Halloween, but Mexican culture also popularized Día de los Muertos. In an attempt to generate awareness of the holiday, the Spanish classes of SJHHS dedicated a week towards celebrating the Day of the Dead.

This Mexican derived holiday is celebrated to respect those who are deceased and the many religious traditions that come along with it.

According to Mrs. Chavez, teacher of Spanish lll, Spanish for Spanish Speakers ll, and the Dual Immersion program; “we need to expand our minds and not be narrow minded… especially being close to the Mexican border. We need to understand how other cultures work since they are totally different than what we are used to.”

One main practice on the Day of the Dead is to make an altar, this is a small table often found in religious buildings with favorite foods, clothes, or memories of loved ones on top of it. These dedicated altars are often decorated with candles, sugar skulls, and a frame of the person along with a small attribute of their influence on society, such as their jobs or hobbies they had.

On the first day, November 1, altars are brought and set upon graves along with prayers that wish the deceased to have a safe journey to their afterlife. The festival is continued throughout November 2 as well.

Mrs. Gonzalez, teacher of world history in the Dual Immersion program, said,“I like the fact that the Latino culture faces death in a realistic way unlike Americans are used to… It teaches people that death is real. I find that very important, and I like that the school gives students that experience.”

SJHHS challenged the Dual Immersion, Spanish for Spanish Speakers ll, and Spanish for Spanish Speakers ll students, to create altars this past week. A competition was held to see which altar was the most creative and which altar was the best overall.

Each pair of students had to pick a deceased celebrity or family member and create an altar with eight different things that represent that person in honor of Día de los Muertos.

Freshmen Ellie Dowling, and Cole Bourne, in the Dual Immersion program, made an altar of Audrey Hepburn together. Bourne said, “It was cool to see the difference that our ancestors had on the world and how different we would be without them and their contributions.”

After being graded, all altars were displayed in the library for everyone to appreciate and see, so that students and teachers could walk around and examine to judge for the contest.

Students casted their votes after two weeks and as a result, freshmen from the Dual Immersion, Vagelie Guillen and James Gaines’ collaborative altar honoring, Muhammad Ali, won for the best altar overall. Freshmen from a Spanish for Spanish Speakers l class, Ivonne Flores, Jaiden Castellanos, and Bonnie Jiménez, who also collaborated and honored Nacho Medina, won for the most creative altar.

Jessica Tonai, freshman in the Dual Immersion class, said, “celebrating Día de los Muertos inspires us to embrace cultures besides our own… you don’t have to be from the country where the holiday originated to celebrate it.”  

All grade levels participated in this contest but freshmen were the only ones awarded.

Día de los Muertos will continue to be celebrated at SJHHS in honor of the contributions the Mexican and Latino culture have provided.