Spanish students in Lower, Middle, and Upper School spent Nov. 1 and 2 learning more about El Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. This Latin American tradition honors the ancestors and dearly departed of those who celebrate.
Fourth and fifth grade students welcomed archaeologist Rachel Witt and educator Denise Woltering-Vargas of Tulane University's Stone Center for Latin American Studies. The special guests presented on El Día de los Muertos celebrations in Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru. Witt also spoke about her work excavating human remains from tombs in Peru. She showed the students a real human skull and taught a few words in Quechua, a language spoken by indigenous people in Peru.
Other Lower School students learned about Day of the Dead ofrendas, or offering places, where loved ones are remembered. Lower School Spanish teacher Sara Broussard decorated a traditional ofrenda with photos of her grandparents and great grandmother.
“The ofrendas are decorated with photos, marigold flowers, candles, and the favorite foods and drinks of the cherished ones that have passed away,” said Mrs. Broussard. “I displayed my loved ones’ favorite foods and special objects that reminded me of them.”
Middle School Spanish students honored their deceased loved ones in a special chapel service spoken entirely in Spanish. The service featured slides for the sermon and an altar created by the students.
Some Middle School classes talked about the belief that death is not something to be feared, but another stage of life that is to be embraced. Speaking completely in Spanish, classes discussed how many truly believe that their loved ones return to celebrate the day with the living.
From a student-led chapel service to face painting to baking “pan de muerto” to creating a mural, Upper School students were involved in a number of activities to celebrate the day.
Upper School Spanish teacher Alexandra Simon’s students just finished reading the novel “Tumba” by Mira Canion. Students spent much of the first quarter reading the book, which centers around the Day of the Dead. In addition, students participated in reader's theater and studied Day of the Dead traditions.
“This is absolutely my favorite week of the year to teach,” Middle School Spanish teacher Annabelle Allen said. “I find it is the week that I see the most passion and cross-cultural appreciation from my students.”