BY ALFREDO GUZMAN
For the past several years Holtville High School ELD teacher Erika Leon and Art teacher Fred Guzman have been collaborating to create a ‘Dia de Los Muertos’ Altar. Students from both the Spanish and Art classes make decorations, create artwork and help set up the altar. The altar is located in the “A” building outside of the Administration Office and can be seen as soon as one enters the school’s front entrance. The altar was finished October 31st and will stay up until November 3rd.
The historical and cultural significance of ‘Dia de Los Muertos’ is gone over in both Spanish and Art classes. Crafts, activities and in class discussions frame the importance and meaning of ‘Dia de Los Muertos’. In Spanish class the significance of each of the components of the ‘Dia de Los Muertos’ altar are researched and the findings of the class are posted with explanations in the display case next to the altar.
‘Dia de Los Muertos’ origin’s can be traced back to early Mesoamerican ancestor and harvest festivals. During the Spanish conquest Mesoamerican rituals were integrated with Catholic practices. The observance of ‘Dia de Los Muertos’is practiced most famously in Mexico but other countries practice it as well. Traditionally, families build altars in their homes during the weeks leading up to November 1st, as a way to celebrate and
remember loved ones who have passed on. But,’Dia de Los Muertos’ altars are also created in libraries, museums and classrooms in both Mexico and the United States, as a way of honoring Mexican traditions and encouraging cross-cultural understanding. The prominence of skulls as a ‘Dia de Los Muertos’icon goes back to the Aztecs. Skulls were important Aztec icons that illustrated their belief in the existence of an afterlife. In Mexican culture, skulls continue to symbolize death and rebirth.
At Holtville High School, faculty and students often bring pictures of the departed to the altar for remembrance Tokens of affection and objects the departed enjoyed in life are displayed on the altar as well.
This year HHS remembers staff member Chrys Diez. Chrys was always going out of her way to help students and everyone at Holtville high school well beyond her duties. She was the unofficial boss of the high school who knew how to get everything done. Chrys was beloved by
everyone and, kept a wall of pictures given to her by students who had graduated during her time at the high school. “I believe it is important to enrich our students with their culture and tradition. The Day of the Dead altar allows us to honor those we loved by placing items they enjoyed and in keeping their memory alive,” said ELD teacher Erika Leon.